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Binance Nigeria Executives Remain in Custody Following Court Appearance

Last Updated March 22, 2024 8:31 AM
Eddie Mitchell
Last Updated March 22, 2024 8:31 AM
By Eddie Mitchell
Verified by Peter Henn
Key Takeaways
  • Nigerian High Court has made no official ruling on the extension of two Binance executives’ detention.
  • Nigerian authorities are investigating Binance for allegations of market manipulation, money laundering, and others.
  • Court hearings are to resume on April 5, 2024.

On Tuesday, March 19, 2024, the two Binance executives who have been detained for three weeks in Nigeria were taken to a Federal High Court hearing by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who were seeking to extend the pair’s detention order.

The’ detention comes as part of a recent crypto crackdown in Nigeria, with Binance and some heavy allegations are at the center of it all.

No Ruling

Following their detention by the office of the National Security Advisor (NSA) at the end of February, the pair have been held, with their passports seized without a criminal conviction.

Tigran Gambaryan, a former crypto-focused US federal agent who is now Binance’s Head of Financial Crime Compliance, and Kenyan Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, have so far been detained for three weeks.

Although the judge made no ruling  on EFCC’s request to extend their detention order, which originally expired on March 12, it seems as though Gambaryan and Anjarwalla will remain in Nigeria until the ruling arrives. According to Reuters, the families of the detained executives said  in a statement:

“At the court hearing in Abuja today, which was attended by Tigran and Nadeem, the court ruled that after hearing arguments from both parties, they would resume the session on April 5.”

These events come as Binance finds itself deeply embroiled in major legal trouble in Nigeria following allegations of money laundering, processing some $21.6 billion in illegal and illicit transactions, and destabilizing the national currency.

The Nigerian government intends to get to the bottom of their investigations. It is still unknown whether indefinitely – and perhaps illegally – detaining two Binance employees will be good for their case against the exchange.

Appeals for Release

Support for Anjarwalla has also come from industry ally and blockchain lobby group, the Blockchain Association of Kenya (BAK).

Speaking with the Mount Kenya Times , the association expressed its concerns, saying:

“The arbitrary detention of Nadeem Anjarwalla and his colleague not only undermines principles of transparency, due process, and respect for human rights but also jeopardizes the advancement of blockchain technology and innovation in our region.”

According to Pulse Nigeria , Anjarwalla’s wife Elahe said that she was “completely heartbroken” over the situation. She pleaded with authorities for his timely release, saying in a statement:

“Nadeem has no authority to make high-level decisions at Binance. I am once again asking from the bottom of my heart that the Nigerian authorities please allow him and Tigran to return home while they continue their discussions with Binance.”

The Binance Nigeria Story

The case of Binance in Nigeria is rapidly developing, so here’s a quick rundown of events.

After reversing a ban on crypto in December 2023, the Nigerian government became suspicious of Binance’s peer-to-peer (P2P) Naira/USDT trading pairs. It claimed Binance was fixing the exchange rate, further damaging the declining Nigerian economy and the naira.

Binance also stood accused at the time of processing some $26 billion in unknown funds. This resulted in the government demanding $10 billion in damages. It also launched a probe into the exchange, demanding the entirety of its Nigerian customers’ user data.

Binance swiftly delisted all Naira-based trading pairs and essentially closed shop in Nigeria. Meanwhile, just two days after arriving in Nigeria, seemingly to discuss matters with the authorities, the Binance execs were detained.

Now, the authorities are attempting to reform rules around crypto operators and increase registration, application, and other fees for firms. Things are increasingly dire. Meanwhile, Nigerian authorities are looking for the “smoking gun” which could, perhaps justify their recent actions.

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