Nigerian who bid for English premier league team faces US fraud chargesMmobuosi is being charged with lying to auditors, insider trading, and failing to file Forms 4 disclosing the sales of millions of Agri-Fintech common stock for which he was the ultimate beneficial owner.
Mmobuosi Odogwu Banye, the Nigerian tech-entrepreneur who earlier this year made a $140 million bid for an English premier league football team, has been charged by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for pretending to have more cash in the bank than was really on hand.
Early this week, SEC announced that it obtained a temporary asset freeze, restraining order, and other emergency relief against Banye also known as Dozy Mmobuosi and three affiliated US based entities of which he is the CEO. SEC is the regulatory authority of US stock markets.
Mmobuosi’s February bid to become the majority shareholder in Sheffield United fell through after financial disagreements with current Saudi club owner, Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Al Saud.
The SEC move follows investigations involving an alleged multi-year scheme to inflate the financial performance metrics of his companies and key operating subsidiaries to defraud investors worldwide.
SEC claims that since at least 2019, Mmobuosi spearheaded a scheme to fabricate financial statements and other documents of the three entities, Tingo Group Inc., Agri-Fintech Holdings Inc., and Tingo International Holdings Inc. and their Nigerian operating subsidiaries, Tingo Mobile Limited and Tingo Foods Plc.
Mmobuosi founded Tingo Group in 2002 after launching Tingo Mobile in 2001, an Agri-Fintech company which provides financial solutions for users in the agricultural sector. Until now, Tingo Group has been traded as a public company on NASDAQ.
SEC is charging Tingo Group, OTC-traded Agri-Fintech, and Mmobuosi with reporting, books and records, and internal controls violations. It also charges Mmobuosi with lying to auditors, insider trading, and failing to file Forms 4 disclosing the sales of millions of Agri-Fintech common stock for which he was the ultimate beneficial owner.
Antonia M. Apps, the Regional Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office said on Tuesday, “As alleged, Mmobuosi spearheaded a brazen scheme using phony records and fictitious entities to make the Tingo companies he controlled appear highly profitable, so that he could hoodwink investors and reap massive benefits at their expense. We filed this emergency action to expose Mmobuosi’s fraud and hold him accountable, while protecting investors from further harm.”
It is alleged that Mmobuosi made and caused the entities to make material misrepresentations about their business operations and financial success in press releases, periodic SEC filings, and other public statements.
According to SEC, ‘For instance, Tingo Group’s fiscal year 2022 Form 10-K filed in March 2023 reported a cash and cash equivalent balance of $461.7 million in its subsidiary Tingo Mobile’s Nigerian bank accounts. In reality, those same bank accounts allegedly had a combined balance of less than $50 as of the end of fiscal year 2022.’
Other charges are that Mmobuosi fabricated the customer relationships that formed the basis of their purported businesses. SEC claims, ‘The entities he controls have fraudulently obtained hundreds of millions in money or property through these schemes, and that Mmobuosi has siphoned off funds for his personal benefit, including purchases of luxury cars and travel on private jets, as well as an unsuccessful attempt to acquire an English Football Club Premier League team, among other things’.
Mmobuosi received an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree from Ambrose Alli University and a doctorate from Universiti Putra Malaysia. He went on to become one of Nigeria’s most feted and admired entrepreneurs.