Political Links Touted As Kenya Drops Case Against Flutterwave

By  |  February 5, 2023

Seven months after a Kenyan court froze the bank accounts of Flutterwave; one of the biggest tech startups in Africa, the authorities have dropped the charges of financial misconduct against the prominent fintech company.

Last year, authorities in Kenya alleged that the Nigerian payments company was profiting from financial impropriety, particularly card fraud.

According to court documents, Flutterwave, one of three Nigerian fintech companies that were the subject of a complicated money laundering investigation in Kenya, wired more than KES 276 B (USD 2.2 B) in multiple currencies over a four-year period without the knowledge of and without authorization from the CBK. Ultimately, the High Court froze KES 6.2 B (USD 49 M) distributed across 62 bank accounts and the Central Bank of Kenya commanded Kenyan banks to immediately sever their ties to Flutterwave, which denied all the allegations.

Following an earlier hint that entered the public domain in September 2022 that some of the charges were being thrown out, a Kenya High Court document seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by Robert Gitau, an attorney for Flutterwave, announced the dismissal of the accusations.

This comes as a boost to Flutterwave which has been embroiled in scandals involving its leadership over the past year while trying to remain unshaken in its bid to expand its cross-border payments business and go public on a major exchange.

However, as the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) which filed the case remains silent on the circumstances of the dismissal, there are murmurs among observers and insiders that there’s some political manoeuvring at the heart of the matter, potentially on both sides.

On one hand, the case against Flutterwave is believed to have been manufactured by the then-ruling camp to thwart Ruto’s Presidential bid knowing his proximity to the company, and that the allegations are politically motivated with no actual wrongdoing on the part of Flutterwave.

However, David Hundeyin, a prolific Nigerian investigative journalist who set off alarm bells in African tech last year with a story that detailed multiple improprieties at Flutterwave, had first alluded to the possibility that the case against Flutterwave in Kenya would be withdrawn following a successful bid for the nation’s highest office by eventual winner President William Ruto.

This is based on perceived ties between Flutterwave and Kenya’s top brass, as President Ruto is known to be a father-in-law to Alexander Ezenagu; husband to the President’s daughter, June Ruto. Ezenagu is a Nigerian who is not only linked to Flutterwave but also named multiple times in the suit filed by the ARA.

There is also some unconfirmed talk of Flutterwave’s role in financing President Ruto’s bid for office, and the Kenyan President has indeed been seen in close proximity to Flutterwave’s co-founder/CEO, Olugbenga Agboola, who came under fire last year. Others say the recent dismissal of the case is simply politics cancelling out politics.

Flutterwave, which became Africa’s highest-valued startup last year on the back of a staggering USD 250 M that tripled its valuation to USD 3 B in just 12 months, would no doubt look to put these matters in the rearview and forge ahead with plans of building the premier digital payments platform in Africa.

Currently, Flutterwave says it has a clientele that spans over a million businesses including Microsoft, Uber, MTN, Wise, Chipper, PiggyVest, etc., handling transactions in more than 30 currencies and processing 500,000 payments daily. The company also says it has processed close to USD 20 B in payments and 100 million transactions since inception, across over 33 African countries where it currently operates.

Featured Image Credits: Stephen Legal

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