Flutterwave’s messy web of controversies casts dark clouds on its future


The Nigerian financial business known as Flutterwave is making headlines once more, this time due to allegations of money laundering.

According to a number of reports coming out of Kenya, the High Court has issued an order to freeze 56 bank accounts that have deposits totaling over Sh6.2 billion. The Kenyan news site known as The Star claims that on April 4, 2022, the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) was given the instruction to conduct an audit of the finances.

Although Flutterwave was not the only company participating, all of the other companies have some relationship to Flutterwave or employees of Flutterwave.

"investigations found that the bank accounts operations had suspicious activities where funds might be received from certain foreign companies which generated suspicion," reads a statement that is credited to the Agency. After then, the money was moved into accounts that were connected to it, as opposed to being paid out to merchants.

After the story broke, Flutterwave issued a statement in which they denied the allegations and said they were unfounded.

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The following is an excerpt from the statement: "claims of financial improprieties involving the company in Kenya are completely incorrect, and we have the records to verify this."

" We are a financial technology company that abides by the most stringent regulatory standards in all aspects of our business operations. Audits of our Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Procedures and Operations are Conducted on a Regular Basis by One of the Big Four Accounting Firms We continue to take a proactive approach in our interactions with regulatory organizations in order to ensure that we are in compliance.

As was to be expected, many people hold differing opinions regarding the claims. Although there are those who believe that Flutterwave has not committed any wrongdoing, there are others who say that the fact that the case was brought to court is evidence of how serious it is. Because the judge's order is only supposed to remain in effect for the next three months, you can be certain that we will not have finished hearing about this matter.

Techpoint Africa attempted to contact Flutterwave in order to ask it some questions; but, other than asserting that the charges are baseless, it was unable to provide a response to those queries that was satisfactory.

One accusation more than we can handle

why 0 1096Photo Credit: Lynn Friedman Flickr via Compfight cc

The company, which is six years old, has been in the press for unfavorable reasons three times in less than four months because to recent developments like the one that just occurred. The first incident occurred in April 2022, when ex-worker Clara Wanjiku Odero accused current CEO Olugbenga Agboola of harassing and intimidating her.

Odero wrote the following in a blog that was published on Medium on April 4, 2022: "I have been repeatedly belittled, lied about, hounded, and almost arrested due of Olugbenga Agboola, the CEO of Flutterwave, and I am calling time."

A Nigerian investigative journalist by the name of David Hundeyin wrote an article not even two weeks later in which he outlined various charges of fraud, mismanagement, and sexual harassment against Flutterwave and its CEO, Agboola.

Even though many people believed that this news could be harmful to the company, the startup hardly responded to the report, and they only issued a tepid response a week after it was published.

A surge of executive positions being filled

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Since that time, there have been a number of personnel shifts within its executive staff. Oneal Bhambani was appointed Chief Financial Officer of the company in June 2022, while Gurbhej Dhillon was appointed Chief Technology Officer not long after that.

Before joining Kabbage, Bhambani worked at American Express, where he held the positions of Chief Financial Officer and Head of Capital Markets. Rebecca Mendel and Daniel Eidson, both of whom had previously worked with him at Kabbage, joined him there.

Notably, both hires have a significant amount of experience working in the fintech industry; however, none of that expertise has been gained in Africa.

Flutterwave new hiresL-R, Gurbhej Dhillon, Flutterwave CTO and Oneal Bhambani, Flutterwave CFO.

This raises the question of who or what influenced these hires as the accusations in the Hundeyin article touched on two issues: a fictitious Greg who was the CTO and numerous accounts of financial impropriety. This raises the question of who or what influenced these hires as the accusations in the Hundeyin article touched on two issues.

Following the claims, some industry stakeholders voiced the desire for decisive actions to be taken, and these appointments could be the outcome; yet, they also raise more doubts.

There is a good chance that one could work their way up to the CEO post from the CFO or CTO positions. As the company moves closer and closer to an initial public offering, these hires could potentially constitute a plot for investors to right the ship. On the other side, this might be a strategy to improve the public's perception of the company and win back the confidence of investors.

Repeated reports of financial irregularities are not likely to help a financial organization that is working toward an initial public offering (IPO). One can only wonder what the current investors think of the situation in light of these reports. Consideration must also be given to the role that investors play in ensuring that sound corporate governance processes are put into place.

Were investors aware of these inconsistencies yet nevertheless decided to put their money into the Series D funding round? If they were, what measures were made to make sure that something like this wouldn't happen again? In that case, one must call into question either their motivations or their methodology, or both.

Getting dangerously close to breaking the rules

Legal FlutterwaveImage by Daniel Bone from

One of the accusations that were made by the ARA concerned the authorization that Flutterwave has to provide a payment service platform in Kenya. In spite of the fact that we were unable to confirm that it possesses a license to operate a payment service platform in Kenya, Flutterwave seems to indicate that they provide their services in Kenya through third parties.

Flutterwave said the following in the statement that was referred to earlier: "via our financial institution partners, we collect and pay on behalf of merchants and corporate entities." During the course of the procedure, we generate revenue for our services by imposing a transaction fee, the records of which are public and may be checked.

Startups in the technology industry commonly operate in regulatory gray regions under the belief that regulation will catch up with innovation. It is reasonable and logical that businesses operating in the financial services sector be subject to a higher level of scrutiny compared to those in other industries. After all, the actions of financial institutions have the potential to have a significant impact on the livelihoods of a large number of people.

Arguments in favor of enhanced communication

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It is common knowledge that Nigerian startups have a tense relationship with the media, and Flutterwave's response provided clear evidence that this is the case.

" Flutterwave has a responsibility to ensure that the ecosystem remains intact, and we thus promise our commitment to continue to collaborate with all of the relevant parties in order to sustain this. The purpose of the publishing is now being investigated, and we are trying to ensure that all of the records are accurate.

Victoria Crandall, founder of the public relations firm No Filter PR, wrote in a column for TechCabal that "African tech startups and investors shouldn't dismiss credible journalism or shy away from the media out of fear of hit pieces." [Crandall is] "African tech startups and investors should not dismiss credible journalism or shy away from the media." They need to have more interactions with journalists in order to spread their views and have more of an impact on the discussion surrounding African technology.

When articles of a negative nature have been written about African startups, the standard response has either been to allege a witchhunt or to remain silent and wait for the controversy to go down. However, as the ecosystem develops and becomes the focus of greater attention, companies are now required to confront problems head-on rather than hiding behind cleverly phrased comments.