2 Nigerians sentenced in the US over $160m money laundering case

Godfrey Elimian
2 Nigerian execs sentenced to 27years in prison overer failed money laundering
Two execs convicted by US DoJ over failed money laundering cases after three years

Two Nigerians, Anslem Oshionebo and Opeyemi Odeyale have been sentenced to 27 months in prison in the United States for money laundering after their business facilitated the shipping of $160 million to Nigeria over about three years.

The operators of a Texan payments firm ties pleaded guilty today July 15, 2022.

Anslem Oshionebo, 45, and Opeyemi Odeyale, 43, received 27-month prison sentences for failing to maintain effective anti-money laundering controls and unlicensed money transmitting, according to legal filings by the United States DoJ.

In a statement by the Department of Justice (DoJ) released this July, the Dallas-based company the Nigerians own and operate, Ping Express US LLC, faces five years of probation and a fine of up to $500,000 after pleading guilty to a related charge, while another executive received a 42-month sentence, according to Bloomberg.

Read also: Kenyan authorities Freeze Flutterwave’s accounts over money laundering allegations

Background

Ping Express sent customers’ remittances to Nigeria, Kenya and other African nations.

According to the DoJ, despite processing a “substantial amount” of questionable transactions over a three-year period, the company neglected to alert regulators to any one of them, even though it eventually filed a number of reports.

Ping Express - 2 Nigerians convicted in the US over $160m money laundering case

One customer used the firm to move funds they made from fake-romance scams, including scamming a woman in Indiana who sent $15,000 to a supposed roughneck oil worker in the Gulf of Mexico, and another who sent $6,300 to a purported Irish sea captain, according to the DoJ’s statement.

Another customer moved more than $80,000 in a single month, far more than the company’s $4,500 limit, court filings show.

The Nigerians claim gross violations

One of the Nigerians claims that the legal battle from the DoJ was unwarranted and unjustly targeted to violate their persons and the entities which they own.

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.

Odeyale said in an emailed statement that claimed the case against him had “gross violations”

Oshionebo said in an email that “history will be the best judge” but he did not have the resources to continue fighting the case. 

Odeyale also founded and controlled Payzen Ltd., a London-based payments company where Oshionebo has been a shareholder.

According to US and UK documents, the UK Financial Conduct Authority approved Payzen to operate in January 2020, two months before federal prosecutors for the Northern District of Texas accused the two Nigerians and a number of other people of money-laundering offenses.

The British company has not been charged with any wrongdoing and was not cited in the United States lawsuit.

Odeyale ceased to be a controlling shareholder of Payzen in December 2020. The company is being controlled today by Adekanmi Adedire, filings at Companies House show. Adedire has since come out to distance Payzen from Ping express.

In a LinkedIn message:

Payzen is “unrelated” to Ping Express, which is a “totally different entity.”

Adekanmi Adedire

Payzen still holds an active license as a payments company, with its website listed as ping-express.com, the FCA’s website shows.

Ruth Wharram, a spokeswoman for the regulator in London, said she was unable to comment on an individual case.

The watchdog takes “all relevant information into account in our supervision of firms,” she added.

Read also: Introducing GAT Summit 2022: Africa’s largest government and tech convo


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