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Binance Nigeria: Lawmakers Denounce Exchange’s $140 Million Bribery Claim

Last Updated May 15, 2024 2:14 PM
Eddie Mitchell
Last Updated May 15, 2024 2:14 PM
Key Takeaways
  • Nigeria’s government has dismissed Binance’s $140 million bribery allegations.
  • Binance is accused of missing a crucial hearing date on January 10, 2024.
  • The tax evasion trial in Nigeria for Binance and its executives is set for May 17, 2024.

The Nigerian government has refuted allegations from Binance CEO, Richard Teng, who claimed Binance had been offered a bribe to cease investigations into the exchange.

According to Nigerian officials, these allegations are merely an attempt to distract from the ongoing criminal investigations into Binance’s operations in Nigeria.

A Distraction

As per local media reports , the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes has denied accusations of a $140 million bribe being offered to Binance.

Chairman of the committee, Ginger Onwusibe elaborated on the course of events prior to the detainment of Binance’s two execs. According to Onwusibe, they had a January 8, 2024 meeting with Binance employees and committee members, for a private pre-hearing conversation.

The committee then invited Binance to appear before it on December 8, 2023, and scheduled the public hearing date for January 10, 2024. On January 8, 2024, members of the committee met again with six Binance representatives to assist with preparations.

He states:

“No solicitation or demands of any type was made by representatives of the Committee to Binance at the meeting.”

Onwusibe stressed that Binance failed to appear at the crucial January 10 meeting. He asserts that the allegations by Teng are fake and fabricated. Adding:

“We recognise that the blackmail by Binance is merely an attempt to distract and draw attention away from the serious allegations of criminality against it, now compounded by its role in the security breach of the sovereign Nigerian State,”

Binance Responds

Teng’s post features no explicit mention of a bribe or the exact amount as quoted in a New York Times article , and by Nigerian officials. But he did write:

Counsel reported back that he had been presented with a demand for a significant payment in cryptocurrency to be paid in secret within 48 hours to make these issues go away and that our decision was expected by the morning.

Seemingly, there is no denial of an attempt to extort the exchange. A Binance spokesperson told CCN:

“We stand behind what we said in our blog.”

With conflicting narratives arising from Binance and the Nigerian government, the situation is showing no signs of slowing down.

Richard Teng Calls for Release of Tigran Gambaryan

It has taken quite some time, but Binance CEO Richard Teng has finally issued a public statement on the ongoing troubles facing Binance in Nigeria.

Teng wrote a lengthy and comprehensive blog post  on the conflict between Binance and the Nigerian government, which has unexpectedly unfolded into an increasingly serious situation.

In his post, Teng is explicitly calling for the immediate release of Tigran Gambaryan, and not Anjarwalla.

In its concluding paragraphs, Teng writes:

Let Tigran go home to his family, and then Binance will work through the same process that we have done with Nigeria’s law enforcement community voluntarily more than 600 times in the past. “

The other detainee who escaped to Kenya, Anjarwalla, is barely mentioned in the appeal for Gambaryan’s release. His first name is mentioned a few times as Teng describes the timeline of events, and his final name only once.

The final mention of his first name comes as Teng carefully describes the instance of his escape, writing: “Nearly a month later, on March 23, we learned that Nadeem left unlawful detention.

A Secret Crypto Settlement

Perhaps most interesting of all, is the part where Teng alleges that an unknown person approached the employees, and requested a significant crypto payment to settle the allegations.

According to Teng , this was to “be paid in secret within 48 hours to make these issues go away and that our decision was expected by the morning.

Teng claims the Binance counsel declined the payment demand because they didn’t view it as legitimate.

Nadeem Anjarwalla Faces Nigerian Extradition

Binance executive Nadeem Anjarwalla is facing extradition to Nigeria following his escape from authorities amid a major probe into the crypto exchange.

With the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) for Africa now seeking his extradition from Kenya, could the Binance employee share a similar, if not worse fate than former CEO, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao?

Return to Nigeria

Anjarwalla had reportedly fled Nigeria to Kenya on March 22, 2024, using a Middle Eastern airline. This came a month after he and fellow Binance colleague, Tigram Gambaryan, were arrested without charges a month prior in February.

Now, it appears as though an international effort to return him to Nigeria is underway with INTERPOL Africa. As confirmed by Gabra Omar, Vice President of the INTERPOL Africa Executive Committee on Extradition in a conversation with local media outlet, Sunrise Daily.

Omar disclosed that the INTERPOL Africa office is coordinating with several counties to enforce the Red Notice against Anjarwalla.

Nigerian officials accuse Binance of committing financial crimes including four counts of tax evasion, and money laundering charges to the tune of $35 million.

Trial Delayed

Though the case was supposed to resume today (May 02, 2024), Gambaryan’s legal defense was able to delay proceedings until May 17, 2024. This is because Binance and its executives could not be jointly charged until the exchange had been formally served with the charges.

Gambaryan, who serves as Binance’s Head of Financial Crime Compliance, remains in detention having been moved to a notoriously dangerous prison following his colleague’s escape. Explaining his role within Binance Gambaryan’s wife told local media :

“On February 25, he landed in Abuja at the Nigerian government’s request for a financial compliance policy. This is what Tigran does. He helps countries navigate the notoriously prickly world of finance, crime, and compliance.”

Expressing concerns over his safety following his transfer to a rather dangerous prison, she stated:

“Today, my husband sits in the notorious Kuje prison, a place that has held Militants from Islamic State and Boko Haram,”

She accuses Nigeria of using her husband as a bargaining chip to be leveraged against Binance as authorities investigate the exchange. Gambaryan has also launched a lawsuit against the Nigerian government for his “unlawful” detention.

Nigeria Sentencing Could Be Harsh

Anjarwalla’s rather daring escape could be seen as an omission of guilt. If no crime was committed, why would he feel the need to flee? This would likely be the question pressing on the minds of prosecutors and investigators probing into Binance’s alleged criminal activity in Nigeria.

If Binance and its two employees are found guilty in Nigeria, they may not receive the same courtesy afforded to their former CEO, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao. Despite pleading guilty to numerous charges including money laundering and paying more than $4 billion in fines, CZ is only facing four months in jail.

This comes just a month after Sam-Bankman Fried (SBF) of FTX was sentenced to 25 years in jail for his role in a multi-billion dollar fraud through the exchange.

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