“Ninety days for the thief, one day for the owner!” Six months after Patricia reported a cyber hack where $2 million was compromised, the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) has arrested a suspect in connection to the hack.
On Friday, the NPF disclosed that Wilfred Bonse, a contestant in the recent gubernatorial election in Cross River state, allegedly collaborated to launder ₦50 million. The funds were reportedly derived from the fraudulent diversion of ₦607 million from Patricia's account on Flutterwave to Bonse's bank account, facilitated through a cryptocurrency wallet.
“The case involves criminal conspiracy, unauthorised modification of computer systems, network data, and the unlawful diversion of funds,” says Olumuyiwa Adejobi, the police spokesperson. He further stated that investigations are ongoing amidst the arrest.
While the fintech startup refuted the hack, it acknowledged that merchants' accounts had been compromised, stating that “...no user lost any funds”. The uncertainty lingers about whether Patricia was one of the affected merchants, given that its hack reportedly occurred in January 2022, as indicated by TechCabal.
In the aftermath of the cyber hack, Patricia temporarily suspended withdrawals on its platform, sparking discontent among users and industry commentators. The Nigerian-focused crypto exchange faced significant backlash from users seeking the release of their funds. The situation escalated when the company announced the replacement of customers' assets, previously held in Naira or Bitcoin, with a newly introduced native token, Patricia Token.
In September, Hanu Fejiro, the founder and CEO of the startup, assured customers that Patricia had secured funding and was prepared to initiate repayments. However, complications arose when DLM Trust, the appointed escrow trustee by Patricia, terminated the contract, citing “multiple breaches in the terms and conditions of the agreement”. Fejiro contested this claim, asserting that all scheduled payments would proceed as planned on November 20, 2023.
Last week, we exclusively reported that Patricia is repaying users in Naira for the first batch of repayment, which began on Monday. The arrest represents a ray of hope for the crypto exchange, which has navigated a challenging year. “This is not all the money lost, but recovery from this would go a long way to soothe Patricia's users,” Fejiro said. “My commitment remains to Patricia users, Repayment started on the 20th of November, and it will continue. Until every user is reached.”
Who is Wilfred Bonse?
As previously mentioned, Bonse is a Nigerian politician who initially ran for the governorship position in the last election as a member of the People's Democratic Party (PDP). He claimed to have faced “unfair treatment” when he was disqualified from participating in the primary election. Bonse insisted on a refund of the ₦21 million he spent on purchasing the election forms, but his request was denied due to the non-refundable nature of the agreement.
Subsequently, in May 2022, he withdrew his candidacy from the PDP and entered the race once again, this time under the New Nigeria People's Party. However, he lost the elections.
According to his X profile, Bonse is identified as a “financial and management consultant, philanthropist, ambassador of goodwill, and global peace ambassador”.
This isn't the first time his name has been associated with a money laundering issue. In February, the Peoples Gazette reported that Bonse was accused of benefiting from at least ₦40 million in a cyber fraud scheme orchestrated by a group of hackers known as The Syndicate.