Flutterwave: Nigerian tech firm at the heart of Kenya's Sh6.2bn money laundering haul

The Nigerians said in a petition that they were swindled of billions of shillings through a sports betting platform that used Flutterwave to process the payments. PHOTO | POOL

Until a fortnight ago, the name Flutterwave did not ring a bell for the majority of Kenyans.

The Nigerian tech startup grabbed headlines when the High Court froze its Sh6.2 billion spread in 62 bank accounts on suspicion that it was proceeds of crime.

The firm has since rubbished the claims of financial impropriety, saying it was investigating the motive behind the reports.

“We are working to figure out the motive behind the publication, and have the records straightened,” said Flutterwave in a blog post.

But what exactly is Flutterwave and who are the faces behind it?

According to its website, the Nigerian-based startup provides payment technology for merchants, and processes payments on the Web, mobile, ATM, and points of sale worldwide.

The company headquartered in San Francisco was founded by Nigerian nationals Olugbenga Agboola and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji in 2016 to facilitate cross-border payments for small and large businesses in Africa through one application programming interface (API).

API is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other.

The firm states online that since its establishment, it has processed close to $2 billion in payments and 25 million transactions across over 33 African countries –including Kenya- where it currently operates.

Zero shares

In February, the tech firm announced it raised $250 million in a Series D round that tripled its valuation to over $3 billion in just 12 months.

Court filings show Flutterwave Payments Technology Ltd is owned by Nigerians Olugbenga Agboola, Adeleke Christopher, Iynoluwa Samuel. Flutterwave Inc is registered in the United States with an office on 1323 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco.

A Kenyan, David Mouko Elizaphan Omaanya, is also a director but has zero shares.

Its client portfolio features renowned names such as online travel marketplace Tubayo, taxi-hailing service provider Uber, tech giant Microsoft and mobile network operator MTN.

Investigations by the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) established Flutterwave accounts had Sh5.17 billion in 29 accounts at GTB, Equity and Ecobank in Kenya shillings, US dollars, euros and Sterling pounds.

The court heard that the firm received Sh12.4 billion between November 2020 and this year in a single account at Equity Bank, reflecting the large amounts of money handled by the start-up.

Investigations established that the money in the Equity account was later transferred to Rem X Ltd, which is owned by Nehikhare Eghosasere and Demuren Olufemi Olukunmi.

Rem X Ltd is at the centre of a separate money-laundering suit, which saw the court freeze Sh5.6 billion in accounts in April.

In the last few months, the State has stepped up surveillance, netting hundreds of millions of shillings in suspected dirty cash.

“The anti-money laundering law is now settling, with the burden of proof resting on anyone who cannot explain the source of money in their possession,” says Migos Ogamba, a lawyer.

The Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2009 has been revised several times to seal loopholes that have been identified in the course of its enforcement.

This, coupled with the existence of the Financial Reporting Centre created to assist in the identification of the proceeds of crime and the combating of money laundering, has tamed dirty cash criminals.

Woman from Laos

An estimated Sh2.3 billion ($19.48 million) linked to a woman from the Southeast Asian nation Laos with the backing of four Kenyans was also frozen recently.

Last November, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Posta Kenya officials recovered $28,000 (Sh3.1 million) concealed in a jacket shipped into Kenya as a parcel from South Carolina, US.

Posta staff working jointly with KRA customs officers based at City Square Post Office in Nairobi recovered the money in a suitcase containing clothes and books sent to a Nigerian national.

Peter Oluwafemi Olaiwon was arrested upon presenting himself to collect the parcel, which Ms Linda C Dye, a resident of South Carolina, had sent.

The Nigerian, who claimed that he produces music, which earns about $2,000 (Sh227,260) per month as well as poultry farming that also gives him an income of about $44,000 (Sh5 million).

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