Millionaire banker lost track of son

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The Independent Online

The response of Alhaji Umaru Mutallab to the news that his son was suspected of trying to blow up an airliner was to explain that he had contacted the US embassy in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, just six weeks ago to convey concern about his son's increasingly militant views.

Mr Mutallab is a well-known figure among Nigeria's business and political elite. The family, which comes from the northern city of Katsina, is said to have been "devastated" by the news this weekend of their son's arrest. Nigeria's information minister, Dora Akunyili, moved quickly to describe the father as a "respected and responsible Nigerian". She said yesterday: "The father has already expressed deep shock and regret over his son's actions." Mr Muttalab, First Bank of Nigeria chairman since 1999, has just retired; his successor was announced a fortnight ago. He also served in the economics ministry under a previous government.

While the millionaire banker is thought to have paid for the flat his son lived in while studying at University College London, he is said to have lost track of the young man's movements after the latter abandoned a business management course in Dubai, against his family's wishes.

Speaking to the press in Nigeria, the father said: "I believe he might have been to Yemen, but we are investigating to determine that."