Faces behind Sh25bn global money-laundering probe

Money laundering

The three Nigerians at the centre of investigations may be behind an international money-laundering ring.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • The three Nigerians at the centre of investigations are close associates of Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
  • Three technology prodigies may be behind an international money-laundering ring.

On the afternoon of April 27, 2022, Multigate Limited, one of the firms linked to a suspected Sh25 billion money laundering scheme, wiped out biographies of directors and managers of its its financial technology business.

Three of the firm’s directors – Olubunmi Akinyemiju, Olufemi Olukunmi Demuren and Eghosasere Nehikhare – have been named in investigations by Kenya’s Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) and reports by European agencies that are monitoring the money trail.

Two days after dailies owned by the Nation Media Group published stories about the Nigerian firm with tentacles in Kenya and Dubai, the biographies had been pulled down, an indication that Multigate’s owners may be limiting information about themselves in the wake of global investigations.

The three Nigerian nationals at the centre of investigations are close associates of Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who has been a chief guest at functions hosted by Venture Garden Group, a firm owned by Mr Akinyeniju, Mr Demuren and Mr Nehikhare.

The Nigeria Vice-President in 2018 launched Vibranium Valley, a technology hub that is the brainchild of Venture Garden, as he assured investors that the government would provide a conducive environment for anyone pumping funds into the scheme.

In 2015, the United Nations listed Olubunmi Akinyemiju in its list of 100 most influential people of African descent in the world for the following decade owing to successes in their various fields.

Bunmi, as Mr Akinyemiju is better known in Nigeria, had alongside business partners Demuren and Nehikhare grown Venture Garden Group into a corporate juggernaut in the financial technology sector on the way to bagging billions and becoming one of Nigeria’s biggest government contractors.

Last year, Venture Garden said it would work with Nigerian government economists to lift at least 50 per cent of the country's unemployed youth out of poverty, a commitment that now appears plausible owing to the magnanimous amounts of money its affiliate companies have shipped out of the country in short periods of time.

Between October and November 2020 alone, three of its sister companies moved Sh25.6 billion to Kenya. A quarter of that amount has been frozen in six Kenyan bank accounts by the courts following an application by the ARA.

Venture Garden operates a system known as VigiPay in Lagos and Mr Nehikhare worked there as general manager between 2017 and 2021.

Mr Nehikhare is a graduate of the University of Oxford (UK) and is the CEO of Multigate Ltd, while Mr Demuren earned a chemical engineering degree from Cooper Union University in the US.

At the time the UN listed Mr Akinyemiju as one of Africa’s notable descendants, he was just 38. He had, however, already attracted recognition as one of the individuals that held the continent’s future in their hands.

Mr Demuren is the son of former Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority boss Harold Demuren. His father is a wealthy man.

The two Demurens shot to infamy in 2019 when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed that they were beneficial owners of Starwings Aircraft Leasing, a company registered in Mauritius to avoid paying taxes to Nigeria’s government.

The junior Demuren, Mr Akinyemiju and another Nigerian national, Eghosasere Nehikhare, jointly own Multigate Limited, another financial technology giant in West Africa.

Mr Eghosasere Nehikhare is a co-founder of another financial services firm – Boltpay – which has also bagged Nigerian government contracts worth billions of shillings.

Money transfers flagged by European detectives have now revealed that the three technology prodigies may be behind an international money-laundering ring suspected to have cleaned billions of shillings by moving large sums of money through several countries with flexible financial and legal systems.

Multigate Ltd is part of a network of companies that European agencies believe were incorporated in at least three countries – Kenya, Nigeria and Dubai – for purposes of moving large sums of illicit money as part of a laundering scheme.

A network of six firms — OIT Africa, Avalon Offshore Logistics, RemX Capital Ltd, RemX Ltd, RemX Investment Partners and Multigate Ltd — moved Sh25.6 billion from Nigeria to Kenya before wiring some of the funds to countries in Europe and Asia.

The transactions raised concerns in Europe that there could be a money-laundering outfit cleaning money through several countries.

In April, ARA flagged Sh5.6 billion that had been wired into Kenya from companies owned by Mr Demuren, Mr Akinyemiju and Mr Nehikhare. The money was wired into six bank accounts owned by RemX Capital Ltd, OIT Africa and Avalon Offshore Logistics.

The ARA successfully asked Kenya’s High Court to temporarily freeze the funds as it completed investigations into the source and intention of the funds.

While the agency has traced some of the companies, shareholders and local partners of the suspicious network, court records indicate that it has barely scratched the surface of the magnitude of the network under investigation.

ARA’s court filings indicate that it may not have known that three related companies – RemX Ltd, RemX Investment Partners and Multigate Ltd – had also received funds from Nigeria.

Mr Olubukunmi Demuren is linked to three of the six companies that moved Sh25.6 billion from Nigeria to Kenya before wiring some of the funds to countries in Europe.

The companies are RemX Capital Ltd, RemX Ltd and RemX Investment Partners.

The three Nigerians co-founded Multigate Ltd in Nigeria five years ago, before incorporating subsidiaries in Dubai and Kenya.

Most companies owned by the Nigerian trio fall under their Venture Garden Group.