In the rapidly evolving realm of fintech, the recent controversy surrounding Ibrahim Ibitade, the CEO of Leatherback, has reverberated across the industry. Accusations of fraud have emerged, casting a shadow over both the reputation of the leader and the fintech firm he oversees,leadership reports.
The recent charges against Ibitade stem from the declaration by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on November 16, 2023, stating that he is wanted in connection with allegations of conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretenses.
Leatherback, a digital bank facilitating cross-border banking and payments in multiple currencies, including Dollars and Pounds, serves merchants and individuals across 12 countries. We conducted an inquiry with Leatherback and unearthed the following information:
Leatherback and SDQ Facilitators: With over 50,000 users across its operational countries, Leatherback issued NGN and USD accounts to SDQ Facilitators, a user unaffiliated with Leatherback and its clients. The EFCC notified Leatherback in September 2023 of potential fraudulent activities associated with SDQ Facilitators’ account, prompting Leatherback to cooperate fully with the investigation.
EFCC Saga: Leatherback proactively engaged with the EFCC, providing extensive information and over 2,000 printed documents to support the investigation. Following this collaboration, Leatherback conducted an internal investigation into SDQ Facilitators’ transactions, revealing a surge in activity mirroring that of Hekima International, a previous FX brokerage firm on the platform. Victims, introduced to SDQ Facilitators by a Hekima associate, disclosed their inability to process transactions on the platform.
Leatherback delisted Hekima International in June 2023 due to compliance concerns and restricted account access. SDQ Facilitators continued FX transactions until a bank suspension of USD transactions in early August exposed their fraudulent activities.
Leatherback’s Findings: The internal investigation disclosed that SDQ Facilitators had fraudulently obtained funds from third parties under the guise of assisting with USD payments, targeting victims who were active clients of Hekima when it had an account with Leatherback.
EFCC’s Witch-hunt: Despite Leatherback’s cooperation, there are concerns that the collaborative effort with the EFCC is devolving into a witch-hunt. Ibitade, the CEO, contends that he is unfairly targeted, likening the situation to holding the CEO of a commercial bank accountable if an account holder engages in fraud.
Conclusion: Behind the regulatory and legal complexities lies the narrative of a CEO ensnared in unfounded accusations despite active cooperation. It is crucial to approach this unfolding story with a commitment to fairness and justice, acknowledging the potential toll on Ibitade’s well-being and the broader implications for the fintech community. In navigating this turbulent period, a thorough examination of the motivations driving the ongoing scrutiny is warranted to reveal the truth and ensure a just resolution.