Escape, remand, and now a demand: Binance seeks release of detained exec in Nigeria

Binance has urged the Nigerian government to release Tigran Gambaryan, the detained head of its criminal investigations team.

Escape, remand, and now a demand: Binance seeks release of detained exec in Nigeria
Tigran Gambaryan

Following a Monday court hearing in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, Tigran Gambaryan, the head of Binance's criminal investigations team, was remanded at the Kuje Correctional Facility. Despite pleading not guilty to money laundering charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), he has faced detention since his arrest on February 26.

Gambaryan and his colleague Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance's regional manager for Africa, travelled to Nigeria to address the company's restricted website access, which the government had blocked due to suspicions of manipulating foreign exchange prices in unofficial markets. However, they were apprehended upon arrival. Anjarwalla managed to escape custody on March 23.

Nigerian authorities accused Binance and the two executives of tax evasion in a four-count formal charge. The court hearings are postponed until May 5, with a separate hearing on April 18 to decide bail for Gambaryan.

"We are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained. [He] has been dedicated to public service and fighting crime for most of his life. These charges against him are meritless," a Binance spokesperson told via email.

The presiding judge, Justice Emeka Nwite believes that Gambaryan's past trips to Nigeria, where he trained officials on crypto fraud detection, constitute him acting as a representative of Binance. The crypto exchange has also acknowledged that he helped Nigerian officials recover funds from crypto crimes.

His wife, Yuki Gambaryan, said, "My husband has dedicated his life to law enforcement and justice and became a world-renowned expert on these topics. The Nigerian government themselves trusted and relied on him. In fact, last year, his efforts not only ensured the retrieval of $400,000 for Nigeria but Tigran [Gambaryan] also helped to train the very same EFCC that is now holding him."

In March, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla filed suit in a Federal High Court saying that their human rights had been violated.

The Nigerian government is yet to comment on the legal tussle. The office of the country's national security adviser told Financial Times that "outcomes will be made public in due course."

In February, the Central Bank of Nigeria's governor, Olayemi Cardoso alleged that Binance Nigeria processed $26 billion in transactions with sources that remain unidentifiable.

"We are concerned that certain practices go on that indicate illicit flows, going through a number of these entities [including Binance] and suspicious flows," Cardoso said.
Related Article: A timeline of Binance woes in Nigeria

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