Binance execs escapes Nigerian detention, website blocked in Philippines

A Binance executive detained by Nigerian authorities has reportedly escaped using a fake passport, as per local publication sources. His escape coincides with the Nigerian government initiating criminal proceedings against the cryptocurrency exchange for alleged tax evasion.

Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance’s regional manager for Africa, along with his colleague Tigran Gambaryan, head of Binance’s criminal investigations team, had been detained in a guest house in Nigeria’s capital for several weeks. Reports indicate that Anjarwalla managed to flee the country on Friday under the guise of attending prayers at a nearby mosque, subsequently boarding a Middle East airline flight out of Abuja.

Interestingly, Anjarwalla’s British passport, which he used to enter Nigeria, remains in the custody of Nigerian authorities. This has raised questions about how he managed to leave the country using a Kenyan passport without having any other travel documents while in detention.

The detention of Anjarwalla and Gambaryan followed a criminal complaint received by a magistrate court in Abuja, leading to their custody since their arrival in Nigeria on February 26. The court then authorized the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to detain both individuals for 14 days, later extending this period after Binance reportedly failed to comply with a court order demanding access to data on Nigerian traders on its platform.

Nigeria has made a formal request to Binance demanding details on its top 100 users in the country and a comprehensive transaction history spanning the past six months.

In response to the government’s actions, Binance has removed the Nigerian naira from its peer-to-peer (P2P) service, which allows users to trade cryptocurrencies without involving a third party.

Elsewhere, the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission has taken steps to block local access to Binance, citing the exchange’s operation without the necessary investment and trading platform license. The SEC highlighted that Binance has been actively promoting crypto trading to Filipinos, including through social media, which is considered an offense under Philippine law.

“The SEC has identified the aforementioned platform and concluded that the public’s continued access to these websites/apps poses a threat to the security of the funds of investing Filipinos,” SEC Chairperson Emilio B. Aquino said.

The block on Binance’s access in the Philippines was set to take effect within three months from the release date of SEC’s advisory on November 28, giving Filipino users until late February to withdraw their investments from the exchange.