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Fintechs Instructed to Report Cryptocurrency Transactions to Authorities in Nigeria

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Fintech companies across the country have been instructed to report all crypto trades to relevant authorities.

This directive comes amidst the recent freezing of 105 accounts across nine fintech firms suspected of various illegal activities, including unauthorized forex dealings, money laundering, and terrorism financing.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) obtained an interim court order on April 24, 2024, to freeze these accounts for 90 days as part of ongoing investigations.

Sources close to the matter suggest a connection between these freezes and heightened scrutiny of cryptocurrency transactions.

Following these regulatory actions, several prominent fintech players, including OPay, Moniepoint, PalmPay, and Kuda Bank, have been directed to suspend the opening of new accounts temporarily pending evaluations of their Know Your Customer (KYC) processes by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The frozen accounts are part of a broader investigation by the EFCC into 1,146 bank accounts suspected of manipulating the foreign exchange market through cryptocurrency platforms.

The EFCC believes that some account owners exploited cryptocurrency platforms to manipulate the FX market.

In response to these developments, fintech firms have started implementing stringent measures against cryptocurrency transactions.

Moniepoint, for instance, notified its customers that it would close accounts engaged in crypto or virtual asset transactions and share their details with relevant authorities.

Similar warnings were issued by other fintech players like Paga and OPay, emphasizing their stance against crypto-related activities.

During a recent industry event, Tosin Eniolorunda, founder and CEO of Moniepoint, urged participants in crypto Peer-to-Peer (P2P) markets to cease their activities due to regulatory prohibitions.

He highlighted the risks associated with engaging in such activities, citing potential legal repercussions.

Eniolorunda linked the recent regulatory actions to the prevalence of fraud in fintech apps and emphasized the renewed focus on KYC and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) measures.

He alleged that some P2P crypto activities contributed to the manipulation of the Nigerian currency, the naira, prompting regulatory intervention.

This latest directive underscores Nigeria’s broader crackdown on cryptocurrency platforms, particularly Binance, which began earlier in 2024.

The government has expressed concerns about the role of crypto platforms in currency speculation and their impact on the devaluation of the naira.

This regulatory tightening reflects the government’s efforts to maintain financial stability and curb illicit financial activities in the country.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Visa and Mastercard Face Setback as Judge Indicates Likely Rejection of $30 Billion Deal

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Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. are facing a potential setback as a federal judge in Brooklyn indicated she is likely to reject their $30 billion settlement with retailers.

The deal, aimed at capping credit-card swipe fees, has been a focal point of contention between the card giants and merchants for years.

Judge Margo Brodie of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York expressed skepticism about the settlement during a hearing on Thursday.

According to court records, Judge Brodie suggested she might not approve the agreement, stating she would issue a written decision in the coming days.

Retailers have long campaigned to reduce their share of the costs associated with accepting card payments, known as interchange fees.

These fees, which are partially passed on to banks that issue the cards, including major institutions like JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc., have been a burden for many merchants.

Announced in March and pending court approval, the settlement was designed to allow merchants to charge consumers extra for transactions involving Visa or Mastercard credit cards.

The agreement also aimed to introduce pricing tactics to steer consumers towards lower-cost cards.

“The court’s comments strongly suggest that she won’t accept the settlement,” noted Justin Teresi, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “While Judge Brodie doesn’t seem convinced that larger retailers should be allowed to opt out from the settlement, provisions like changes to digital wallet acceptance rules and some state bans on surcharges likely present real adequacy issues.”

Both Visa and Mastercard expressed disappointment over the developments. A Mastercard representative stated, “We believe the settlement presented a fair resolution of this long-standing dispute, most notably by giving business owners more flexibility in how they manage their card acceptance activities. We will pursue our options to ensure a proper resolution of this matter.”

Visa’s spokesperson echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that “continued engagement between industry and the merchants is the best way forward.”

Swipe fees have become a substantial financial issue for retailers, totaling more than $160 billion last year, according to the Merchants Payments Coalition. Reactions to the settlement were mixed when it was announced, with some retail coalitions pledging a thorough review and others quickly opposing it.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association, representing large merchants such as Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc., described the settlement as a “mere drop in the bucket” and urged careful review to assess if it adequately addresses the harm inflicted on retailers.

Doug Kantor, general counsel for the National Association of Convenience Stores, praised the judge’s remarks, stating, “We’re gratified to see that the court recognized how bad this settlement was.”

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African Fintech Kuda Raises $100M Despite Investment Challenges

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Kuda Technologies, a leading fintech company with operations in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, has successfully raised nearly $100 million in funding over the past five years.

This significant milestone was revealed by the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Babs Ogundeyi, during a panel session at the GITEX Africa conference in Morocco.

The GITEX Africa 2024 technology fair, which runs from May 29 to 31 in Marrakech, brings together over 1,500 exhibitors from 130 countries and nearly 700 startups.

During the event, Ogundeyi highlighted Kuda’s growth journey and the difficulties African fintech startups face in attracting foreign investment.

“We launched in Nigeria in August 2019 and have raised close to $100 million within that period,” Ogundeyi announced during the panel session titled “Beyond the Starting Lane: Navigating Advanced Funding.”

The session also featured prominent figures such as Sacha Michaud, co-founder of Glovo in Spain; Yassine Oussaifi, partner at Africinvest Tunisia; and Katlego Maphai, CEO of Yoco South Africa.

The discussion centered on the challenges and strategies for securing advanced funding for startups.

Ogundeyi emphasized that African startups often struggle to secure foreign investment due to investors’ unfamiliarity with the local market environment.

To mitigate this, Kuda Technologies established its headquarters in the UK, facilitating easier access to funding from Western investors.

“We are headquartered in the UK, but we are Africa-focused, and there is a reason why we are headquartered in the UK. It’s very much related to access to funding. The capital comes primarily from the west. It’s easier to attract capital in those jurisdictions,” Ogundeyi explained.

He stressed that securing funding is a rigorous process, particularly in Africa, where trust levels are low.

“When we raised our seed funding, the majority of investors had not been to Africa before, making it difficult to connect with something they didn’t understand. It goes beyond investors seeing the numbers or potential; if you don’t have a feel for the environment or understand the psyche of the people, it becomes very difficult to connect resources to that region,” Ogundeyi elaborated.

Despite the challenges, Kuda Technologies has made significant strides. Its subsidiary, Kuda Microfinance Bank in Nigeria, has grown its customer base to 7.5 million users, making it one of the largest fintech companies in Africa.

The company’s expansion strategy includes obtaining licenses in Canada and Tanzania, reflecting its vision of global reach.

Ogundeyi’s insights were echoed by Sacha Michaud, who noted that venture capitalists tend to invest in regions where they feel comfortable.

“We launched in Africa six years ago and were in high funding mode. In every funding round, we had to convince our investors why we were focusing on the region when we could invest our resources in higher-return areas like Europe,” Michaud shared.

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Flutterwave Hit by Another Security Breach, Billions of Naira Diverted to Multiple Bank Accounts

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In another blow to the financial technology sector, Flutterwave, a prominent player in Nigeria’s digital payment landscape, has been rocked by yet another security breach, resulting in the diversion of billions of naira to multiple undisclosed bank accounts.

This incident is the latest in a series of setbacks for the fintech company, raising concerns about the integrity of its systems and the safety of customer funds.

According to insider sources familiar with the matter, unauthorized transactions amounting to approximately ₦11 billion ($7 million) were illicitly transferred to several accounts during April 2024.

However, other sources suggest the figure could be as high as ₦20 billion ($13.5 million), underscoring the magnitude of the breach.

Flutterwave, responding to inquiries regarding the breach, acknowledged the unauthorized activities but stopped short of confirming the exact amount involved.

In a statement to TechCabal, the company assured the public that no customer funds were lost or compromised, and the confidentiality of customer data remained intact.

The modus operandi of the perpetrators involved transferring the stolen funds to various accounts across five financial institutions over a span of four days.

To evade detection, the transactions were carefully orchestrated to stay below thresholds that trigger fraud checks, highlighting the sophistication of the operation.

Law enforcement agencies have been notified of the breach, and investigations are underway to apprehend those responsible.

Flutterwave has also initiated measures to mitigate the impact of the incident, including temporarily restricting the accounts implicated in the unauthorized transfers.

Industry analysts note that this is not the first time Flutterwave has fallen victim to such security breaches. Over the past fourteen months, the company has grappled with multiple incidents of unauthorized transfers, raising serious concerns about the adequacy of its cybersecurity measures.

In October 2023, Flutterwave reported unauthorized transactions totaling ₦19 billion ($24 million), affecting thousands of account holders across 35 banks and financial institutions.

Subsequent breaches in March and February 2023 saw millions of naira diverted to numerous bank accounts, further exposing vulnerabilities in the company’s systems.

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