Exclusive: Canadian sisters accused in Nigerian extortion scandal speak out
Published Wednesday, May 3, 2017 9:57AM EDT
Two Toronto sisters are speaking out for the first time since arriving back on Canadian soil, after they became embroiled in a Nigerian sex scandal that made headlines around the world.
“Everyone thinks we’re missing or dead or worse,” Jyoti Matharoo said, alongside her sister Kiran, in an exclusive interview with CTV Toronto, explaining that they have been maintaining a low profile since they got back to Canada in early January.
Before their brush with the law in Nigeria, the sisters were nicknamed the “Canadian Kardashians” after garnering a massive following on social media, where they documented their lavish lifestyle.
The jet-setting sisters have taken more than a dozen trips to Nigeria in the past eight years, where they dated some of the country’s wealthiest men.
But, on their last trip, they were accused of attempting to extort Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola.
They were arrested, spent the night in jail and say the experience was terrible.
“I was yelling and I was saying, ‘Show me an arrest warrant, show me something with my name on it,’” Kiran said, choking back tears. “But they didn’t have any identification.”
Jyoti said they were questioned then placed in a jail cell for eight hours overnight.
“There was rats in there, there was 11 other girls. Two pieces of foam, I was crying the whole night, I was freaking out,” she said.
The next day, the sisters say, they were taken to a hotel and placed under the protection of police who held their passports.
A local news website shared video of the sisters apologizing to Otedola and his family, and also saying they had created a website, NaijaGistLive.com, which exposed alleged scandals involving Nigeria’s rich and powerful. They went on to say “the intention was not hurt anyone or to be malicious” or extort anyone.
But the sisters now deny having anything to do with the website. They insist they were scapegoats in the Nigerian authorities’ alleged attempt to cover up a “national embarrassment involving a powerful and wealthy person.
Documents filed in court show that, two months before the Matharoos last arrived in Nigeria, Otedola petitioned for a police investigation into NaijaGistlive.com, claiming that it used naked pictures to extort money from innocent Nigerians.
However, the Matharoos sisters’ names are nowhere to be found in the document.
The sisters now say they made the apology video to get their passports back. But the documents were never returned.
Out of fear for their lives, the sisters told CTV News, they agreed to make the video apology. “It was pretty much being forced, otherwise you’re going to be thrown into a maximum security prison for God knows how long,” Kiran said.
Though they are relieved to be back in Canada, the Matharoos say they still want to clear their names.
“I think this stain on our reputation will never be cleared,” said Kiran. “Because now, no matter what we do, it’s always going to be there.”
But despite what they describe as a harrowing ordeal, the sisters want to begin documenting their lives on social media again.
A lawyer who helped the sisters told CTV News that the Canadian Embassy issued emergency passports, as their bail conditions did not restrict travel.
In an email to CTV News sent on April 10, 2017, Global Affairs Canada confirmed that consular services had been provided to Canadian citizens detained in Nigeria.
The Matharoos left Nigeria on Jan. 1, vowing never to return. They have already missed several court dates, the next of which is scheduled for May 22. There is no extradition treaty between Canada and Nigeria.
With a report by CTV Toronto’s Tracy Tong