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Nigerian fintech startup founders jailed in the United States for money laundering


Nigerian-born, US-based founders of a money-remittance fintech Ping Express have been handed a 27-month sentence in the United States after pleading guilty to charges of money laundering.

The Department Of Justice (DoJ) said that the founders of the Texan-based payments firm with ties in the United Kingdom allowed their company to facilitate fraudulently acquired funds amounting to $160 million. The money was wired to Nigeria, Kenya and other African countries in a span of three years.

Company CEO, Anslem Oshionebo, 45, and Opeyemi Odeyale, 43, who was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) are accused of knowingly facilitating dubious remittances through the platform they owned and operated. Their company,  Ping Express LLC, faces a five-year probation and a possible fine as high as $500,000  received 27-month prison sentences .

The company’s Head of IT and Business Development Manager, Aleoghena Okhumale, also pleaded guilty to knowingly facilitating the illegal remittance of fraudulently derived funds and was handed a 42-month prison sentence.

According to court papers, the company’s policy had limited first-time customer transactions to only $499, while daily transactions had a $3,000 cap and monthly transactions were limited to $4,500.

However, more than 1,500 customers had violated this rule. In one instance, Ping Express allowed a customer to send over  $80,000 in a single month. Another victim cited in court papers is an Indiana woman who sent $15,000 to a supposed oil worker in the Gulf of Mexico in what’s now regarded as a romance scam. A similar transaction remitted $6,300 to a purported Irish sea captain.

Odeyale, the Chief Operating Officer (COO), said in an email, “Having gone through a very painful three years of legal battle with a monstrous US DoJ, it was time to give in and move on. There is a lot of good I can do with the next two to three years than waste it in fighting an insurmountable foe.”

On his part, Oshionebo, the company CEO said that “ history will be the best judge”, adding that he had no resources to continue the court battle.

The two businessmen are also affiliated with another London-based payment company, Payzen Ltd which was licensed in January 2020. Payzen ltd has not been mentioned in the us case.

In Kenya, Flutterwave, a Nigerian-based money remittance company had its accounts frozen on allegations of money laundering. Flutterwave is highly regarded as Africa’s high-riding fintech unicorn. The company has since responded to these allegations, saying that it wasn’t involved in any wrongdoing.

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Simon W Nderitu

Simon is a tech enthusiast who keeps a close eye on emerging technologies, startups and the general business environment. You will often catch him totally immersed and drooling over Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, IoT and just about any other tech that promises to revolutionize the way we live. Send tips to snderitu@techtrendske.co.ke

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