Hack or mismanagement? Inside Patricia’s troubling customer fund crisis | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

As allegations of lavish lifestyles and mismanaged assets surface, Patricia CEO, Hanu Agbodje faces increasing scrutiny. From undisclosed hacks to dissolved repayment partnerships, the company’s narrative is one of contradiction and controversy. With the CEO allegedly now leading from afar, and the company still claiming operational status, customers are left piecing together the fragments of their financial futures.

With help from his brother living outside Nigeria, *Paul Adetogun bought one BTC (bitcoin) through Patricia, which he purchased during the crypto market dip.

“I’ve been saving that money for a long time now. I was hoping to use it for my wedding this year. I was telling my brother that I believe the money will appreciate.”

Adetogun’s investment proved wise as the BTC appreciated significantly. The pioneer crypto reached a new all-time-high of $73,000 this year, an amount that could have resolved Adetogun’s financial struggles.

“It is very painful, I’m in debt. I’ve been embarrassed on a major street in my area,” he says tearfully, “I try to explain, but they won’t understand.”

Similarly, *Bola Thomas, who had $412 in his Patricia account, found himself unable to pay his rent.

“It’s unfortunate that Patricia did this to me,” he laments.

Like Thomas, *David is also behind on rent and has resorted to squatting with friends.

However, *Gabriel’s story is one of the most heart-wrenching. He diligently saved ₦60,000 out of his ₦80,000 monthly salary for over two years and invested it in Patricia with hopes of gain.

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“I was planning to travel out. All my savings, over ₦1.5 million, are gone. I don’t think I’ll be able to survive anymore.”

Painful stories like these fill various WhatsApp group chats created by Patricia’s customers seeking solutions to their problems.

From unpaid hospital bills to missed golden opportunities, these customers have been lamenting for over a year since Patricia announced it was hacked and was halting withdrawals.

But several sources close to and within the company suggest that Patricia’s issues run deeper than the hack.

What happened to Patricia?

Patricia office

In May 2023, Patricia officially declared that it had been hacked and was temporarily suspending withdrawals.

According to the statement, the breach solely impacted BTC and naira assets within Patricia Personal, the company’s retail trading division, leaving other crypto balances untouched.

“All our customers’ and merchants’ assets are secure,” they reassured the public. But many customers still cannot access their supposedly secure assets.

“We saw it on the news, just like everyone else,” an ex-employee in the company’s cybersecurity department told Techpoint Africa on the condition of anonymity. “When we pressed for more information, we were told it wasn’t really a breach but rather a reconciliation issue. So why was ‘breach’ plastered across the news?”

According to this ex-employee, the only breaches the cybersecurity department was aware of were internal.

“We can’t even call them breaches, as it was a case of ghost employees; hundreds of fake employees on payroll.”

Two other sources, however, claim that Patricia did experience breaches.

“Patricia was hacked twice during the two occasions that we sponsored Big Brother Naija,” one of the sources told Techpoint Africa.

The source claims the company’s security was already weak and the sponsorship merely exacerbated the issue.

“The infrastructure Patricia was built on had reached its limit. The conversation to migrate started in 2020, but [the migration] didn’t start until 2023,” they explain.

Yet, they doubt if the hack alone was enough to “ruin” the company. Another ex-employee echoes this sentiment, but with a different perspective.

“The hack occurred long before Patricia made it public, but that’s not why the company can’t pay its customers. That’s due to mismanagement,” they claim.

Patricia’s CEO, Hanu Fejiro Agbodje, has dismissed all these claims.

“When you’re running a company the size of Patricia, there are bound to be detractors — staff, close acquaintances, and rivals alike,” he remarked, “Especially in times of crisis, disgruntled individuals, even those unfamiliar with Patricia, will spin a narrative.”

Agbodje insists that Patricia was indeed hacked and suggests that my sources might be new or uninformed employees lacking proper context.

“We fell victim to a hack and lost a sizeable portion of customer assets,” he adds, “We’ve reported the incidents, and investigations are ongoing with Nigerian law enforcement, who have made significant headway.”

Agbodje refers to a disclosure by the cybercrime centre of the Nigeria Police Force, indicating that Wilfred Bonse, a Nigerian politician, allegedly masterminded a ₦607 million hack, $750,000 at the time, on Patricia, accounting for a portion of the total stolen amount.

A document seen by Techpoint Africa in January points to six more suspects who were detained for questioning about an additional ₦142.8 million ($155,734) stolen from the company.

Although my source did not confirm the veracity of these claims, they cryptically remarked, “anyone can buy narratives in Nigeria.”

Has Patricia shutdown?

In response to rumours about shutting down, Agbodje recently published a thread on X affirming that Patricia is still operational.

Last week, Techpoint Africa spoke with an individual who identifies as an employee and confirmed that the company is operational. They, however, declined to disclose the current number of employees.

“We still have an active team handling desks and customer support,” they simply offered.

Techpoint Africa can confirm that five C-level executives have left the company, with three departing in 2023 around when the hack was announced. These executives declined to speak after we reached out to them.

A former employee informed Techpoint Africa last year that some staff were laid off without explanation. However, the confirming employee dismissed this, suggesting that the disgruntled ex-employees might have spoken out of resentment for being terminated.

One source disclosed to Techpoint Africa that Agbodje has been residing in Florida, USA, for approximately two years because of Patricia’s issues. They added that he hasn’t been actively working there, raising questions about the source of his livelihood.

Another source spoke at length about Agbodje’s lifestyle, which they describe as “extremely lavish.”

This individual asserted that Agbodje was the sole person in the company authorised to move money. Despite attempts to verify this claim with the company’s ex-Chief Financial Officer, who departed a month prior to three other C-level employees leaving, there was no response.

The source also disclosed that Patricia lacked a board, despite its substantial revenue. However, Agbodje told Techpoint Africa in October 2023 that the company had a board since 2021.

The accounts from these sources paint a concerning picture for customer funds. Despite the company’s announcement of plans to repay customers within two to five years, a source asserts that this news is misleading as there isn’t a clear repayment strategy in place.

Patricia did announce, in October 2023, a partnership with DLM Trust , a subsidiary of a development investment bank, to initiate the first round of customer repayments. However, less than 24 hours after, Techpoint Africa exclusively learnt that DLM Trust had cancelled that partnership.

DLM Trust stated that it cancelled the partnership due to “multiple breaches in the terms and conditions of agreement and trust between Patricia Technologies and DLM Trust Company.”

Stories like this fuel suspicions among some customers that Patricia isn’t being truthful.

One customer, who couldn’t access their funds before the breach was announced, reported receiving conflicting information from the company.

“They told us it was congestion on the blockchain, then they said it was app maintenance. Then recently, they claimed it was a breach, and later they advised us to convert to Patricia tokens.”

Subsequently, Techpoint Africa discovered that representatives of the company were contacting customers, urging them to convert their trapped assets into company shares.

In a phone conversation shared with Techpoint Africa, a Patricia representative is heard persuading the customer to convert their funds into Patricia tokens, stating, “This is our last resort. Not giving your consent is only going to make issues worse.”

Despite these developments, Gabriel still clings to hope that he’ll retrieve his two-year savings from Patricia. For him, that hope remains his sole lifeline to fulfilling his dream of travelling abroad.

(*) Not real names

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