Detained Binance executive pleads not guilty in Nigeria

Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan has pled not guilty to four charges of money laundering in Nigeria.

Binance flag in Nigeria

Gambaryan, who was arrested in late February, maintained his innocence during a courtroom hearing on April 8, as reported by local news agency Peoples Gazette.

During the hearing, Gambaryan argued that he should not be held accountable for Binance’s operations in Nigeria, stating he lacks decision-making authority within the company. His lawyer Chukwuka Ikuazom further argued that Gambaryan could not plead on behalf of his charged but escaped colleague.

However, Judge Emeka Nwite dismissed Gambaryan’s defense, ruling that his previous visits to Nigeria as Binance’s representative made him liable under local laws. The judge cited that “a person who has no physical presence in Nigeria but has a physical agent in Nigeria can be duly served through that agent.”

Gambaryan, who faces prosecution for tax evasion and money laundering, had his case adjourned until April 19, with his bail consideration hearing now scheduled for April 18. Hearings on the substantive charge are set to start on May 2.

Peoples Gazette reported that Judge Nwite ordered Gambaryan to be remanded at Kuje prison in Abuja until the case is resolved. Gambaryan’s attorney requested that the defendant be returned to the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), a suggestion opposed by the EFCC’s counsel, noting that individuals accused of similar offenses are typically held at the Kuje facility pending a court decision.

Meanwhile, Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance’s Africa regional manager, has reportedly fled Nigeria. The dual citizen of the UK and Kenya and the exchange’s regional manager for Africa, traveled to Nigeria in response to the country’s clampdown on cryptocurrency trading platforms. Upon their arrival on February 26, they were detained.

Nigeria, home to Africa’s largest crypto economy, has seen millions of its citizens turn to cryptocurrency in response to inflation and the depreciation of the local currency. However, the authorities claim that the platform has been used for money laundering and financing terrorism.

The executives claim they were not briefed on any specific allegations against them. Their legal demands include an order for their immediate release, the return of their passports, a public apology, and a court injunction to prevent further detention.