Monday, August 8, 2022

Kenya seizes $56.7 million from Flutterwave as corruption, money laundering trial begins in Nairobi

GTBank and Ecobank, amongst other financial services in Kenya, were also said to have provided their platforms to Flutterwave.

• July 6, 2022
Gbenga Agboola and Flutterwave
Gbenga Agboola and Flutterwave

Kenyan authorities have frozen financial assets of Flutterwave after filing criminal charges against the pan-African payment solutions firm.

The firm was accused of conducting suspicious transactions and failing to comply with financial regulations in Kenya, The Star in Nairobi reported, adding that Flutterwave was one of about seven firms ensnared in an indictment that came down on Wednesday.

Amongst the businesses caught in the probe, Flutterwave appeared the largest and it alone had its accounts frozen to the tune of $56.7 million (6.7 billion Kenyan shillings) by the country’s Asset Recovery Agency, The Star said.

“Investigations established that the bank accounts operations had suspicious activities where funds could be received from specific foreign entities which raised suspicion. The funds were then transferred to related accounts as opposed to settlement to merchants,” prosecutors alleged in filings.

Investigations into Flutterwave began several months ago, and authorities obtained warrants to seize the firm’s accounts in April. The provisional seizure permit was granted for 90 days, and the matter will be heard on November 7, per The Star.

The seizure order appears to coincide with a report published by journalist David Hundeyin, which exposed alleged financial, criminal and ethical lapses against Flutterwave and its chief executive Gbenga Agboola in April 2022.

Mr Agboola denied the allegations as reported by Mr Hundeyin over at Subtack, but said he would make necessary changes to his management of the firm going forward.

In the indictment reported by The Star on Wednesday, Mr Agboola was said to have conducted suspicious transactions to the tune of $101 million dollars (12 billion Kenyan shillings) before authorities caught wind of his activities.

The Kenyan daily also said Mr Agboola and his partners in Nairobi hid under the shadows to exploit the country’s financial system, including conducting about 185 online card payments using the same identification number.

Several other suspicious transactions were also flagged by anti-money laundering detectives, including another instance in which Mr Agboola allegedly connived with another Nigerian national to launder cash through the Kenyan banking system.

“If indeed the Flutterwave was providing merchant services, there was no evidence of retail transactions from customers paying for goods and services. Further, there is no evidence of settlements to the alleged merchants,” Kenyan prosecutors added.

GTBank and Ecobank, amongst other financial services in Kenya, were also said to have provided their platforms to Flutterwave.

In a text message to Peoples Gazette, Mr Agboola suggested the charges were politically motivated.

“Why are Nigerian companies in Kenya being targeted by Kenya ARA?” Mr Agboola said. “This is happening near their election time.”

He also said Flutterwave was not the first Nigerian firm to be targeted in Kenya.

Spokespersons for GTBank and Ecobank did not immediately return requests seeking comments.

Flutterwave has become prolific in recent years as an African success story in providing modern solutions to the continent’s underdeveloped financial services sector.

The firm has raised strings of funding from Tiger Global and other global financial market operators. But multiple charges of fraud and unethical misconduct have left the company weathering its toughest year so far.

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