US authorities have unsealed an indictment against Tingo founder, Odogwu Banye Mmobuosi.
The 45-year-old, who remains at large, is accused of falsely representing the value of Tingo Foods and Tingo Mobile.
According to the indictment, financial statements for both companies portrayed them as “cash-rich, revenue-generating companies” when they were not. Both companies were then sold to US-based companies Tingo Group and Agri-Fintech Holdings.
Mmobuosi’s actions are believed to have resulted in inflated share prices. Between May and July 2023, he is alleged to have sold shares of Agri-Fintech, netting $2 million in profits. Mmobuosi could face up to 45 years in prison should he be convicted.
In June 2023, activist short seller, Hindenburg Research published a report labelling Tingo an “exceptionally obvious scam.” Hindenburg’s report alleged that several claims made by Mmobuosi were false, including that of building the first payment app in Nigeria.
There were also allegations about the operations of Tingo’s food division, which claimed to have generated $577.2 million in revenue just seven months after operations began. Tingo Mobile was also involved in providing mobile phones to farmers in Nigeria, but checks revealed that the cooperatives it listed as partners had less than 100 farmers, while leaders of the cooperatives denied knowledge of Tingo.
Although the report led to a significant fall in Tingo’s share prices, the company soldiered on, announcing shares of $977 million in H1 2023. At the same time, it said that investigations by an independent counsel showed it was innocent of the charges brought by Hindenburg. Tingo did not disclose the results of the investigation.
After shares of Tingo were suspended in November 2023, the US Securities and Exchange Commission revealed it would be charging Mmobuosi with “massive fraud” the following month. However, a statement described the charges as baseless.
“It is Mr. Mmobuosi’s intention to address and resolve these allegations within the appropriate legal framework. He is committed to cooperating with the legal process to ensure a thorough and fair examination of the facts, which he believes will ultimately lead to his exoneration,” it read.
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