Nigeria seeks trial of Binance and executives for financial crimes

Nigerian officials are kicking off legal proceedings against Binance and two of its senior executives, accusing them of money laundering and tax evasion.

Binance flag in Nigeria

A federal court in Abuja has arranged hearings for the detained execs after weeks of criminal investigation into the platform’s operations. Theye are accused of operating without proper licensing, engaging in unlawful foreign exchange activities, tax evasion, and hiding the origins of illegal proceeds amounting to $35.4 million.

Tigran Gambaryan, Binance’s head of financial crime compliance and an American citizen, was the only executive present at the court hearing. The company’s regional manager, Nadeem Anjarwalla, is reportedly on the run after escaping custody in late March. 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 accusations extend to the unlawful negotiation of foreign exchange rates and the evasion of taxes. Gambaryan was taken to court under the escort of the anti-corruption agency officials. The case has been adjourned, with Binance Holdings’ hearing set for April 8, and the case against Gambaryan and Anjarwalla delayed until April 19.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria will continue to hold Gambaryan in custody. Binance has responded to the situation, stating in a blog post that Gambaryan lacks decision-making authority in Nigeria and should not be implicated in these matters. Meanwhile, Gambaryan’s spouse has filed a petition for his return.

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.

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.