Kenya finally releases frozen US$51 million to Flutterwave

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Flutterwave
Flutterwave

Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) of Kenya has formally withdrawn the case filed against African FinTech unicorn Flutterwave, allowing the firm to take back the $51 million (Sh6.6 billion) that has remained frozen since last year.

Appearing before High Court judge Esther Maina, ARA asked the judge to mark the file withdrawn.

A notice for withdrawal was filed in December but the case was delayed by several cases filed against the firm. Among the cases were filed by a group of Nigerians who sought to protect their millions from being forfeited to the Kenyan government.

“The file is hereby marked as withdrawn,” Justice Maina said.

The company’s chief executive officer and co-founder Olugbenga Agboola flew into Kenya early this month in an effort to unfreeze his Sh6.6 billion and lift a Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) embargo on the firm.

In a space of just one year, the start-up has seen its Kenya operations — which was the second-largest market after Nigeria— brought to a halt, with the High Court freezing Sh6.6 billion on money laundering fears and the CBK ordering banks to cut links with the firm.

Mr Agboola landed in Nairobi to meet the firm’s local team and seek an audience with the CBK, which in December asked his firm to make a fresh licence operation.

The CBK had in July ordered local banks to stop dealing with Flutterwave, arguing it was not licensed as its accounts got frozen under the country’s anti-money laundering laws.

The money was frozen in July last year as ARA indicated that the billions in 62 bank accounts were proceeds of card fraud and money laundering.

The billions were held in Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), Equity, EcoBank, KCB and Co-operative Bank accounts as ARA sought to forfeit it to the government.

The agency had claimed that investigations revealed the cash was wired in the guise of payments for goods and services.

Later over 2,000 Nigerians sought a share of the frozen billions claiming they were swindled of their money through a sports betting platform that used Flutterwave to process the payments.

Justice Maina, however, dismissed the case on February 10, marking a victory for Flutterwave after ARA had signalled its intention to withdraw the case and unfreeze the money.

Other than Flutterwave, other companies whose money had been frozen are RemX and Kandon Technologies as ARA investigated them for money laundering.

Flutterwave had termed claims of financial impropriety as “entirely false” adding that it had records to verify the claims.

The Lagos-based company, founded in 2016, is now the biggest payments start-up on the continent. It has processed over 400 million transactions worth more than $25 billion in 35 African countries.

ARA in December changed its tune on Flutterwave, saying investigations revealed that the money was not linked to money laundering—which was behind the CBK’s blockade of the licence.

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