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UBA Kenya At The Center Of Another Sh400M Money Laundering Scandal

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UBA Kenya Board Chairman, Alphan Njeru.

The High Court has frozen more than Sh400 million belonging to Nigerian firm Flutterwave Payment Technology Ltd and two other companies over links to card fraud.

Justice Grace Nzioka froze allowed the freezing of the Sh400.6 million belonging to Flutterwave, Hupesi Solutions and Adguru Technology Ltd, pending application by Assets Recovery Agency (ARA).

ARA said in the application that the money in United Bank of Africa, Access Bank and several Safaricom Paybill numbers are conduits of money laundering, in the guise of providing merchant services.

The agency says it conducted investigations and established that the bank accounts received millions of shillings whose source is suspected to be money laundering and card fraud.

Vacation Judge Nzioka barred the companies from withdrawing, transferring of dealing with the money, pending ARA’s probe. She directed ARA to serve the companies with the court documents ahead of the mention of the case on November 21.

ARA says debits amounting to Sh136 million, which included chargebacks, reversals and refunds an indication of card fraud. Another account would be used to convert dollars into shillings, in a scheme of layering and intermingling.

The amounts frozen include Sh110 million in UBA account, another US $ 556,622 (Sh66.7 million), Sh29.1 million in Access Bank and Sh68 million, Sh112 million and Sh14.5 million in a total of 19 Safaricom Paybill numbers.

The agency investigating officer corporal Isaack Nakitare told the Anti-corruption court that the investigation reviewed that Flutterwave Payment Technology Ltd account held at UBA bank and a closing balance of Sh 110,182,608.99 when the agency obtained the warrant to investigate.

According to his analysis the bank account received Sh 246,307,037.47 from December 7th 2017 to July 7th 2022 as credits.

He told the court that out of the total credit of Sh 246,307,037.47 first three large transactions amounting to Sh 231,240,500 are from their USD account to Kenya shillings account pointing into a scheme of layering and intermingling the funds.

He further added that his investigations revealed that the bank account had received total credits of USD 35,233,028.52. He further stated that at the time of obtaining freezing orders,the bank account had a balance of USD 556 803.98.

The above were mostly card transactions some of which with repeated card transaction code,an indication of card fraud.

The court also heard that there were several chargeback and refund/ reversal transactions amounting to USD 1,020,302.41.

“These were 1424 transactions out of a total of 1796 debit transactions which demonstrates a case of card fraud,” the investigator stated.

Some of the recipients of the funds include Bloompoint tech platforms, Flutterwaves settlement, Flutterwaves payment tech solutions, Flutterwaves inc, Remx Ltd among others.

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Previously

UBA is also battling a similar case of money laundering in Kenya with Sh5B being held.

In a Miscellaneous Criminal Application No E015/2022 filed on March 10, the Assets Recovery Agency(ARA) accused the bank of holding Sh5B that they deem was acquired illegally through unethical banking practices, money laundering. and had sought from the Milimani Anti-Corruption Court to investigate the bank for the offense of money laundering.

According to reports, the money is alleged to be linked to Deputy President William Ruto and in play are two Kenyans and two Nigerian nationals named in several money laundering schemes before.

The billions in the accounts in Equity Bank  and UBA Bank were frozen by the High Court after the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) applied to block the transfer or withdrawal, pending the filing of a petition to have the money forfeited to the government.

The money was wired into the country from multiple countries, including Nigeria, to three companies identified as OIT Africa Ltd, Avalon Offshore Logistics Ltd and RemiX Capital Ltd.

The ARA says the four directors of the firms—the two Nigerians and two Kenyans—shrugged off repeated summons to explain the source of the billions.

The State agency believes the two Kenyans, including one who graduated from a local public university in 2018, are fronts of the Nigerians who are suspected to have the backing of Ruto.

Equity Bank and UBA Bank (account number 5501030010886) could also find themselves in trouble following revelations that the suspicious billions started flowing into the accounts in 2020.

OIT Africa had Sh4.8 billion in two Equity accounts and one in UBA. Avalon Offshore Logistics had Sh43.5 million in two Equity accounts, while Remix Capital had Sh765 million in one UBA account.

A search at the registrar of companies revealed that Avalon Offshore is owned by Nigerians Jeffrey Nnaoma Michaels and Uduma Okoro Christopher Kalu. The company was registered in November 2020 and has its address in Westlands.

Both Kalu and Nnaoma are listed as directors of the company, with Kalu holding 1,600 ordinary shares while the rest are owned by his partner.

An online search reveals that Nnaoma is listed as a director of several companies registered in Nigeria, including a forex bureau.

The post office number of the two Nigerians was linked to several firms that operate from the 13th floor of the prestigious Delta Corner office block in Westlands.

OIT Africa is owned by Vionnah Akoth Odongo and Kenneth Odongo Raminya, with 500 shares each and the company was registered on July 14, 2017.

OIT Africa informed the registrar of companies that it operates from 680 Plaza, the building that hosts the 680 Hotel.

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The mobile number is registered under the name of a different person, who denied knowledge of OIT Africa and Ms Odongo and Mr Raminya.

There is no record of any company by the name Remix Capital Limited in the Business Registration Service online portal, an indication that the firm could be non-existent.

Court documents state that transactions involving the Sh5.6 billion were conducted through suspicious transfers and withdrawals meant to hide the source.

The ARA says that it suspects that the money could be proceeds of crime because the transactions were conducted suspiciously through six bank accounts in Equity and UBA.

The agency says there is imminent danger that the funds might be transferred or withdrawn unless the court issues an order preserving the money.

Documents filed by the companies earlier seeking to stop the investigations state that they are an online remittance platform, which allows individuals from abroad to send money to their loved ones in Nigeria and Kenya.

The case was later withdrawn after they failed to block the probe.

The agency moved to court in March, seeking to investigate the three companies suspecting that they were involved in money laundering.

Justice Esther Maina barred the companies and their agents from withdrawing or transferring the money, pending the hearing of a petition by the ARA.

UBA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is Chike Isiuwe, a Nigerian. The bank board chairman is Alphan Njeru.

Apart from Isiuwe, top bank managers in hot soup are Mary Mulili, Evah Wahogo (Chief Operating Officer), John Oganda (Head of compliance), Debra Ogada(Country Head legal and company secretary) and Geoffrey Kimani (Head risk management).

The investigations by chain implicates the entire management and detectives will comb through the files of many. The international money laundering syndicate, it has emerged that the bank deposits started in 2020.

In November 2020, Deputy President William Ruto met with a controversial man on the run alongside former Nigerian vice-president Atiku Abubakar during his highly guarded trip to the emirate of Dubai.

The DP met Abubakar alongside one Timi Frank.

Mr Frank, a high-flying but controversial political activist, is wanted in Nigeria on various accusations of character assassination.

Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service in 2019 announced that it was suing him over a series of fraud allegations he made against the agency, while the current Nigerian vice-president Yemi Osinbajo last year announced that he was suing Mr Frank for defaming him by making corruption allegations against him.

Before his travel to Dubai, Mr Frank had visited Nairobi where he met with DP Ruto and organized the meeting with Abubakar. It is this meeting that intelligence sources suspect a money laundering scheme was crafted.

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Mr Frank is a close associate of Mr Atiku, a fabulously wealthy former Nigerian vice-president who has been described by his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, as “not trustworthy” and other not very kind terms.

Mr Abubakar is a wealthy Nigerian with vast investments in oil, but President Obasanjo, in his 2014 biography My Watch, described him in unsavoury terms.

“What I did not know, which came out glaringly later, was his parental background, which was somewhat shadowy, his propensity to corruption, his tendency to disloyalty, his inability to say and stick to the truth all the time, a propensity for poor judgment, his belief and reliance on marabouts (religious teachers), his lack of transparency, his trust in money to buy his way out on all issues, and his readiness to sacrifice morality, integrity, propriety, truth and national interest for self and selfish interest.”

Mr Atiku publicly fell out with President Obasanjo and even decamped from then ruling People’s Democratic Party to the Action Congress of Nigeria, but lost the 2007 presidential election, which was won by the now-deceased Umaru Yar’Adua.

Abubakar had promised to fund the ‘Hustler Nation’ campaigns.

Both Dr Ruto and Mr Atiku have political aspirations. Dr Ruto took a stab and won the 2022 elections, while Mr Abubakar is the candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the Nigerian presidential race a year later, in 2023.

According to a local newspaper, investigations further want to unravel the period the UBA bank has been engaged in clearing billions of shillings in the height of 2022 elections. It is claimed that the bank has been used by powerful politicians to launder billions of shillings.

The paper further claims that a senior sitting on CBK board with connections to a senior state official who has since fallen out with the high powers, was commanded to cushion the bank from any troubles given his position at CBK.

Ms Viola Achola who’s in her 20s and the listed as the director of Oit Africa Limited, the firm under probe, she’s claimed to be close to the wife of mentioned CBK board member.

Kenya Insights reached out to the bank on the above mentioned claims but they didn’t comment.


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