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Joe Biden Called to Bring Detained Binance Employee Tigran Gambaryan Home

Last Updated 6 days ago
Eddie Mitchell
Last Updated 6 days ago
Key Takeaways
  • U.S. officials have sent letters to the White House requesting Gambaryan’s case to be treated as a hostage situation.
  • Binance’s Head of Financial Crime Compliance has been detained in Nigeria since February 28, 2024.
  • Lawyers say Gambaryan’s alleged contraction of malaria may be a threat to life.

In a series of letters written to U.S. President Joe Biden and Antony Blinken, backed by a dozen members of U.S. Congress and over 100 former federal prosecutors, efforts to see Tigran Gambaryan’s timely release are reaching the White House.

The Binance executive who has been “unlawfully” detained in Nigeria for the last three months has reportedly contracted malaria, prompting an outpour of support that argues Gambaryan is a scapegoat and political prisoner at best.

Letters to the White House

U.S. lawmakers have called on Joe Biden to bring an end to Gambaryan’s detainment marked by “excessive and harsh treatment.”

In the letter, Chairman of the House of Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul and 15 other Members of Congress signed a letter urgently calling for Gambaryan’s case to be treated as a hostage situation. The letter writes :

“Mr. Gambaryan’s health and well-being are in danger, and we fear for his life. Immediate action is essential to ensure his safety and preserve his life. We must act swiftly before it is too late,”

A second letter  sent to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, signed by over 100 former federal agents and prosecutors, has also called for his prompt release. Spearheaded by Katie Haun, the letter writes:

“Tigran is now being held on false charges related to money laundering and tax evasion — He is completely innocent of these charges and, as a mid-tier employee at Binance, does not hold a role that makes him an appropriate stand-in for the company,”

Noting his stellar commitment to the rule of law and his work in tackling terrorism financing, fraud, national security, and several other cases which included the Silk Road public corruption cases and the Mt. Gox hack, the letter asks for the White House to leverage “the full power of U.S. diplomacy” and bring Gambaryan back home to his family.

Tigran Treated for Malaria

The Binance Nigeria debacle has taken an unfortunate turn as Tigran Gambaryan’s health could be in a steep decline. Following his collapse during the May 23 money laundering trial in Nigeria, lawyers have disclosed that the Binance exec received treatment for malaria in Kuje prison a day prior.

The law firm representing Binance, Aluko & Oyebode, has informed  the courts of Gambaryan’s worsening physical condition, which may explain why the Binance executive failed to attend the original May 22 hearing, and collapsed during the May 23 court hearing.

As per the letter, signed by legal partner, C.J. Caleb, Gambaryan collapsed in prison on May 22 and received “intravenous (IV) treatment for malaria” from Kuje prison medical staff.

Expressing fear for his life amid this alleged deterioration of health, Caleb has called for “comprehensive medical treatment at the best available hospital” within the court’s jurisdiction.

A consul officer at the U.S. Consul Office in Abuja has also reportedly  called for his immediate treatment, noting that malaria is a severe disease for an American and could be life-threatening.

Gambaryan Collpases in Court

As per local media reports , Gambaryan collapsed during Binance’s money laundering hearing in a Nigerian court on May 23.

During the event, Gambaryan’s legal counsel explained that he was sick  and that a letter had been filed on May 22 notifying the court of his condition.

Noting no prior health problems before his detainment, Gambaryan’s wife Yuki, wrote in a statement :

“Yesterday, despite numerous signs of severe illness, my husband was still required to appear in court, where he later collapsed. The conditions in the notorious Kuje prison are, in a word, devastating.”

She expressed that he is facing “unimaginable stress” and is clearly suffering under these conditions. She called for his “immediate release” and pleaded with the Nigerian government to “show some sense of humanity.”

Binance, Gambaryan, and the on-the-run Nadeem Anjarwalla are facing a five-count money laundering, tax evasion, and currency speculation charges totaling some $35 million.

The money laundering trial has now been adjourned to June 20, 2024.

Gambaryan Fails to Appear Before Court

Detained Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan has failed to appear before the courts for unknown reasons, delaying the tax evasion hearing until June 14, 2024.

Gambaryan, who had his bail denied in court last Friday, was supposed to appear before Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja. But, despite being in police custody, correctional service officers failed to produce him on the original May 22 hearing.

In response to the judge’s questions as to Gambaryan’s whereabouts, prosecution counsel, Moses Idehu, appearing for the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), said  he had no idea why Gambaryan wasn’t present.

“My Lord, he was supposed to be produced from custody but I don’t know the reason he is not here. We have been trying to get to members of the correctional centre.”

Idehu notes it is unfortunate and claims that it is not his fault, advising that it is better to adjourn the hearing. Gambaryan’s legal counsel, Chukwuka Ikwuazom, faulted the prosecution for failing to bring Gambaryan, saying :

“I do not see any reason to stand down the matter. The prosecution cannot seriously be saying that a person they brought to court to answer a criminal charge and who is under the custody of the Federal government, whom he is representing.”

Ikwuazom refutes any notion that Idehu does not know why Gambaryan is in court, nor why Idehu is not at fault. He added that he is yet to see the amended charges against his client, which still include Anjarwalla in the suit, preventing the matter from going on.

“My lord within my own understanding of the law if the 3rd defendant is still mentioned, he still has to be arraigned before the matter can go on.”

Justice Nwite adjourned has now adjourned the case until June 14, 2024.

Tigran Gambaryan Denied Bail

With Binance having no presence in Nigeria, and Anjarwalla believed to have fled to Kenya, Gambaryan, who is Binance’s Head of Financial Crime Compliance, was forced to face the courts on his own and was denied bail,  and on his 40th birthday no less.

Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court Abuja has denied bail to Gambaryan. As per numerous  local media outlets,

Justice Nwite ruled that Gambaryan is a flight risk, and would also escape if given bail. Stating:

I have carefully considered the affidavit evidence before me and I am of the view that the applicant will jump bail if granted bail,

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, was also opposed to the bail application, stating:

“The fact that the passport of the defendant is with the complainant does not also guarantee that he will remain in Nigeria. He is not only an American citizen, he was born in Armenia and has its citizenship by birth.”

Though he did not mention Anjarwalla by name, it is presumed that the Nigerian government would rather not suffer the embarrassment of another escape. Iheanacho adds:

“The experience we have had with the man who escaped to Kenya while his United Kingdom passport is in Nigeria will certainly repeat itself if this defendant is granted bail.”

The prosecution concluded that there was no credible evidence as to why Gambaryan should be granted bail. His team of defense lawyers, led by Mark Mordi, contended that the prosecution failed to place any evidence as to why his client posed a flight risk.

“The prosecution has not presented any credible evidence to establish why the defendant should not be granted bail,” the defense argued, adding that any claim of Gambaryan also planning to flee Nigeria was “hearsay, unreliable and inadmissible evidence.”

Gambaryan will remain in the notorious Kuje Correctional Centre as proceedings continue. “This is purely a state sanctioned hostage taking,” the defense added.

Anjarwalla on the Run

Anjarwalla, who is the Africa Regional Manager of Binance, escaped from custody and fled to Kenya after a month in detainment on March 25, 2024.

Following this, Nigerian authorities launched an extradition request through the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) for Africa. Though this process is believed to have been completed, Anjarwalla’s true whereabouts remain unknown.

Reports of Anjarwalla being arrested in Kenya were circulating, though local media outlets have found this to be false  as Kenyan authorities deny this development.

Bribery Claim

Binance CEO Richard Teng recently weighed in on the situation, and explicitly called for the immediate release of Gambaryan, with sparse mention of Anjarwalla.

However one of the more pressing items within Teng’s blog post  on the Nigeria debacle was an alleged claim of bribery. As per Teng’s post, an unknown person had approached Binance employees and requested a significant crypto payment to settle the matters outside of court.

This figure was later circulated by outlets to be somewhere between $140 million and $150 million. Whilst Binance denies any mention of a specific number or even the word “bribe” – Teng’s post does imply a secret backdoor payment, or ‘hush money’ offer was made.

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