Detained executive: CEO says Binance is working with Nigerian government to resolve issues

David Afolayan
“What I can say is we are working very closely with the Nigerian authorities to try to resolve the matter,” Teng said
Nigeria arraigns detained Binance executive for tax evasion, laundry of $35m
Tigran Gambaryan sits as he waits to face prosecution for tax evasion and money laundering at the federal high court in Abuja, Nigeria April 4, 2024. REUTERS/ Abraham Achirga

The CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Binance, Richard Teng has said that the company is working closely with the Nigerian authorities following the detention of its head of financial crime compliance, Tigran Gambaryan.

“What I can say is we are working very closely with the Nigerian authorities to try to resolve the matter,” Teng said about Gambaryan’s case while speaking at the Token2049 crypto conference in Dubai.

Two weeks ago, the Government of Nigeria arraigned Tigran Gambaryan at an Abuja court on four count charges that include tax evasion and money laundering. Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Binance’s head of financial crime compliance was detained alongside Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan who is a regional manager for Africa.

Binance secures operational licence in Dubai
Richard Teng, chief executive of Binance.

According to Reuters, Gambaryan was served with the charges of money laundry of over $35 million, for the first time since his detention during his court appearance and did not take a plea. He will be formally arraigned for the money laundering and tax charges on April 8 and 19, respectively, when his plea will be taken.

The charges include non-payment of value-added tax (VAT), company income tax, failure to file tax returns, and complicity in helping customers evade taxes through the Binance platform. The Federal Government also accused Binance of failure to register with FIRS for tax purposes and contravening existing tax regulations within the country.

A notable item in the suit references Binance’s alleged failure to collect and remit various categories of taxes to the federation as stipulated by Section 40 of the FIRS Establishment Act 2007 (amended). Section 40 of the Act explicitly addresses the non-deduction and non-remittance of taxes, prescribing penalties and potential imprisonment for defaulting entities.

Read full: Nigeria files tax evasion charges against Binance

Specifically, the document detailed instances where Binance violated tax laws, such as failing to issue invoices for VAT purposes, thus obstructing the determination and payment of taxes by subscribers.

Nadeem Anjarwalla and Tigran Gambaryan flew to Nigeria following the country’s decision to ban several cryptocurrency trading websites. This is coming amid a government crackdown on the activities of crypto exchanges suspected of fixing the dollar-to-naira exchange rate on their platforms. 

Nigerian court remands Binance executive, Tigran Gambaryan in custody
Tigran Gambaryan and his counsels in court today. Source: Nairamatrics.

After meeting with government represenatatives, the two executives Binance were detained by the Office of the National Security Adviser- ONSA.  Weeks after, one of two executives detained in Nigeria, Nadeem Anjarwalla escaped from EFCC custody.

The circumstances surrounding Mr Anjarwalla’s escape from the country remain unclear seeing as he managed to get on an international commercial flight even though the British passport with which he entered Nigeria, was seized by Nigerian authorities upon his arrest. An immigration official told a Nigerian media platform that the Binance executive possibly fled Nigeria on a Kenyan passport. 

The two Binance executives were said to have been detained at a “comfortable guest house” and allowed many privileges despite being under arrest. These privileges include the use of telephones, and Mr Anjarwalla is believed to have exploited that privilege to plan his escape.

Recall that a high court which sat in Abuja ordered Binance to provide comprehensive information about all Nigerian users trading on its platform to the country’s economic anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

According to a report by Vanguard, the Nigerian Government also ordered Binance to release all transaction history over the past 6 months. This, the report said, was to establish the negotiations between the Nigerian government and the cryptocurrency exchange. According to the report, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) was also asking the exchange to resolve any outstanding tax liabilities.

Read more: Court orders Binance to share transaction details, names of Nigerian users with the EFCC

Binance has previously pleaded guilty to flouting anti-money laundering laws in the United States in late 2023. This led to a plea bargain arrangement that cost the company $ 4.3 billion.

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