Binance Executives Face Charges in Nigeria Amid Crypto Controversy

Binance Executives Face Charges in Nigeria Amid Crypto Controversy

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Abuja, Nigeria (TAE)– In a significant development that has sent ripples through the cryptocurrency world, one of the two executives from Binance, the globe’s most extensive cryptocurrency exchange, was presented before an Abuja court on Thursday, facing grave allegations of tax evasion and money laundering.

The Nigerian authorities have formally charged Tigran Gambaryan, an American national and the head of financial crime compliance at Binance, along with Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan and the company’s regional manager for Africa. The duo is accused of evading taxes and laundering more than $35 million.

Gambaryan and Anjarwalla found themselves in hot water on February 26, detained upon their arrival in Nigeria as part of a broader criminal probe into Binance’s operations within the country. In a dramatic turn of events, Anjarwalla managed to flee from custody and has since left the country, while Gambaryan remained detained.

Thursday’s court appearance marked the first occasion Gambaryan was formally presented with the charges since his detention. However, he did not enter a plea. Legal proceedings are set to continue, with formal arraignment for the money laundering and tax evasion charges scheduled for April 8 and April 19, respectively.

Interestingly, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of Nigeria has not leveled charges directly against Binance. Instead, it has posited that Gambaryan could stand trial on behalf of the cryptocurrency exchange. This stance has been contested by Gambaryan’s legal counsel, Chukwuka Ikuazom, who argued that his client lacks the formal authority or directive from Binance to represent the company in these proceedings.

Ikuazom further argued that Nigerian law mandates the first defendant, in this case, Binance, to be served before Gambaryan can enter a plea, highlighting a procedural complication since Binance and Gambaryan were jointly charged.

Binance, which was notably absent from the courtroom, has yet to respond formally to these developments. However, the company issued a statement on Wednesday, appealing for Gambaryan’s release and arguing against holding him responsible, given his lack of decision-making power within the firm. This plea comes amidst ongoing discussions between Binance and the Nigerian government.

The case has spotlighted the growing tensions between cryptocurrency platforms and regulatory authorities worldwide. Nigeria, in particular, has pointed fingers at Binance for exacerbating the country’s currency challenges. With cryptocurrency sites becoming popular venues for trading the Nigerian naira amidst persistent dollar shortages, the government’s scrutiny of Binance’s activities has intensified, signaling a potential watershed moment for the regulation of digital currencies in Africa.

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