Court freezes Sh8 billion held by Kenyans, Nigerians in Flutterwave money laundering probe

money laundering probe

The High Court in Nairobi has frozen Sh8 billion held in 52 bank accounts owned by Nigerian and Kenyan businessmen involved in financial technology following suspicion that the funds are proceeds of crime and online fraud.

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The High Court in Nairobi has frozen Sh8 billion held in 52 bank accounts owned by Nigerian and Kenyan businessmen involved in financial technology following suspicion that the funds are proceeds of crime and online fraud.

According to the orders issued by Justice Esther Maina yesterday, the money is held at Equity bank, KCB Bank, Guaranty Bank and Eco Bank, with sources of the cash believed to be a criminal enterprise.

The freeze orders were issued against Flutterwave Payment Technology Limited, Boxtrip Travel and Tours Limited, Bagtrip Travels Limited, Elivalat Fintech Limited, Adguru Technology Limited, Hupesi Solutions, Cruz Ride Auto Limited and Mr Simon Karanja Ngige. The directors of companies are Kenyan, Nigerian and United Kingdom citizens.

The orders stemmed from a forfeiture suit filed by the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA), which claims the companies together with Mr Ngige were in a money laundering scheme.

Main player

Court documents indicate that investigations by ARA revealed the main player in the alleged money-laundering scheme was Flutterwave Payment Technology, as it wired money to the other companies after receiving funds from foreign entities.

“The bank account operations of Flutterwave 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,” reads the court papers. The company was registered in Kenya in February 2017 and directors were four Nigerians although they later included a Kenyan in the directorship. The Kenyan is named as Mouko David Elizaphan Omaanya.

The company was involved in moving huge sums of US dollars to Kenyan banks and wired them to multiple companies registered locally with shared ownership and suspect addresses.

Investigations established that Flutterwave operates 29 bank accounts with Guaranty Trust Bank, 17 accounts with Equity Bank and six accounts at Ecobank.

Received billions of shillings

Mr Isaac Nakitare, an investigator, told court that the accounts owned by Flutterwave received billions of shillings in a suspected scheme of money laundering and the same was deposited in different bank accounts. Some of the funds were transferred into fixed deposit accounts, he said.

“ARA conducted investigations into the alleged suspicious funds and established that Flutterwave was concealing the nature of business by allegedly providing a payment service platform (fintech) without authorisation from the Central Bank of Kenya,” said the investigator.

He further stated that the accounts were used as conduits for money laundering in the guise of providing merchant services.

Further investigations revealed that on May 10, 2021, the company received 185 online card payments all sharing the same bank identification number. The transactions were done using cards issued by the same bank, at the same point, on the same day raising suspicion of card fraud.

He added that between 2020 and 2022, the company’s bank account received Sh12 billion and the funds were either transferred to Remx Ltd while the rest were invested in fixed deposit account.

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