The CEO and co-founder of the Nigerian payments firm, Flutterwave, Olugbenga Agboola, recently traveled to Kenya to resolve the frozen Sh6.6 billion and lift the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) embargo on the company. In just one year, the Kenyan startup operations, previously its second-largest market after Nigeria, came to a halt after the High Court froze Sh6.6 billion due to money laundering concerns. The CBK also ordered local banks to cut links with Flutterwave as it was not licensed under the country’s anti-money laundering laws.
Agboola’s journey to the region aimed to establish a connection with the Flutterwave branch based there and request a meeting with the Central Bank of Kenya. This request came after the CBK asked the company to reapply for a license in December. It just so happened that the CEO’s trip coincided with a verdict from the High Court, which ruled against a petition submitted by over 2,000 Nigerians seeking a portion of the frozen funds. These individuals alleged that they were defrauded of billions of shillings through a sports betting platform that utilized Flutterwave’s payment processing services.
This ruling marks another victory for Flutterwave after Kenya’s Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) withdrew from the case in December, which had frozen the funds in 29 accounts at various banks. This decision and the ARA’s withdrawal bring Flutterwave closer to accessing the Sh6.5 billion and clearing the money laundering accusations.
Agboola stated that the CBK invited Flutterwave to reapply for a money remittance and payments service provider license. He also emphasized the importance of Kenya in the company’s plans to build a global mobile money payments system. Flutterwave described Agboola’s trip to Kenya as a “normal course of doing business” that he takes quarterly.
During the trip, Agboola was accompanied by Riva Levison, a prominent US lobbyist and PR expert who boasts experience in solving political challenges for clients across African governments, including former presidents. In recent months, Agboola’s reputation has expanded beyond Flutterwave due to his investments in other African startups.
It was recently revealed that Flutterwave had Sh184.9 billion in 62 bank accounts across five banks over four years without the knowledge or license from the CBK. The company was one of three Nigerian fintechs under investigation by the ARA for potential card fraud and money laundering. Flutterwave denies any financial impropriety and states that its operations undergo regular audits and that the company continuously engages with regulatory agencies to stay compliant.
The Lagos-based firm, established in 2016, has become the largest payments startup on the continent, processing over 400 million transactions worth more than $25 billion across 35 African countries. The ARA changed its stance on Flutterwave in December, stating that investigations revealed that the money was not linked to money laundering, which was the reason behind the CBK’s block on the license. Although the ARA intends to withdraw from the suit, several applications have been filed before the court seeking a share of the frozen funds or a continued freeze of the billions.
One of these applications was recently struck out by the court. Justice Esther Maina rejected the application by Morris Ebitimi Joseph on behalf of 2,468 Nigerian investors, stating that there was no merit to the petition after the ARA signaled its intention to withdraw the case against Flutterwave. The judge stated that the Nigerians’ fear of losing their money could not hold in light of the ARA’s decision to withdraw the case.