In February 2023, a Nigerian entrepreneur and founder of Tingo Group, a global agri-fintech firm, Dozy Mmobuosi was set to purchase a majority stake in UK football club, Sheffield United.
Mmobuosi was said to have earmarked about £90 million pounds for the takeover of the football club but the deal hit a snag after US regulators discovered ‘massive fraud’ in his subsidiary companies under the Tingo Group.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) found that Mmobuosi through his three subsidiaries under the Group had engaged in insider trading, lying to auditors and investors, and failing to disclose the sale of millions of common shares.
The US SEC also found that from the shares sold, Mmobuosi was the ultimate beneficiary owner resulting in him engaging in internal controls violations.
The SEC then launched full-scale investigations into Mmobuosi’s overall dealings and discovered that he had inflated the financial performance and assets of his companies, including Tingo Mobile and Tingo Foods, and sold them to U.S.-listed entities, such as Tingo Group and Agri-Fintech Holdings, which then issued misleading financial statements.
According to the US Attorney’s Office, he also siphoned off funds from these companies and profited from selling their shares at inflated prices.
During investigations, the US SEC found a rather significant misrepresentation showing that while Mmobuosi’s Tingo Group reported to have had a cash equivalent of $461.7 million for the fiscal year 2022, its bank accounts showed it only held less than $50 in total.
The SEC in a statement said Dozy Mmobuosi “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.”
He is currently facing up to 45 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy, securities fraud, and making false filings with the SEC.
The SEC, which filed a civil complaint against Mmobuosi and his companies in December 2023, said that Mmobuosi engaged in billions of dollars’ worth of fictitious transactions since 2019, and that his fraud was of a ‘staggering’ scope.
The SEC also suspended trading in Tingo Group and Agri-Fintech Holdings in November 2023, due to concerns about the accuracy and adequacy of publicly available information.
Mmobuosi’s alleged fraud was first exposed by Hindenburg Research, a short-selling activist group, which published a report in June 2023, calling Tingo Group an ‘exceptionally obvious scam’.
The report questioned Mmobuosi’s claims of developing ‘Nigeria’s first mobile payment app’ and accused him of falsifying financials while it also caused Tingo Group’s shares to drop by over 60 percent after it was published.
Dozy Mmobuosi is however claiming innocence in the matter saying he was a victim of a conspiracy and that his companies are legitimate and profitable.