Leatherback CEO Ibrahim Ibitade wants to move on after EFCC debacle

Ibrahim Ibitade, the CEO of Leatherback, a cross-border payments startup that operates in seven countries, is ready to move from a dramatic episode with the EFCC after the agency declared him wanted three months ago without “conducting due diligence.”

In November 2023, the antigraft agency declared Ibitade wanted for allegedly conspiring to obtain money under false pretense. An Instagram post of Ibitade on EFCC’s official handle has now been deleted after two petitions from Leatherback. 

The fintech startup also said it has now been cleared of any wrongdoing.

“We have instituted an action against the EFCC, and we are already in court for defamation of character,” Ibitade told TechCabal. Ibitade characterised the EFCC’s action as “bullying” and an attempt to see if his company would roll over, and he asked that the anti-graft agency be made to answer for their actions.

“There have to be consequences because it almost put a dent in what we are building at Leatherback over the last five years,” he added. 

A spokesperson for the EFCC declined to comment.

SDQ Financials and an EFCC investigation

The company originally at the heart of the EFCC’s investigation was SDQ Financials, an unregulated entity that lost billions in client funds in questionable FX deals. Some of those funds were received using Leatherback’s service. The fintech startup has repeatedly insisted that while SDQ Financials used its Naira and USD wallets, it did not know about the alleged fraudulent deals.

While Ibitade didn’t offer details about the amount the EFCC is trying to recover from SDQ Financials, he believes some of the funds in the question may no longer be recoverable because of how the EFCC went after him instead of following the money trail.

While the EFCC incident was unpleasant for the company, Ibitade is already looking forward and remains bullish on the Nigerian market. “We have gone through the phase with the EFCC, and at no point did we shut down our business. As a global business, we did not structure ourselves in a way one country would pull our business down. At the same time, Nigeria is significant for us,” Ibitade added.

Leatherback says it processed $500 million in monthly transactions by June 2023 and was nearing the $1 billion mark before the EFCC episode.

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