“Nigeria must release Tigran Gambaryan, if we are to move forward”, Binance CEO, Richard Teng says

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“At the end of the day, Binance wants to have a future where we work alongside the Nigerian government to be part of building a strong economy for the Nigerian people…”- Teng says
Richard Teng - Binance CEO
Richard Teng – Binance CEO

Amid the turbulence dotting the Nigerian cryptocurrency landscape, Richard Teng, CEO of Binance, has sounded an alarm over the unjust detention of one of its employees by the Nigerian government. In a poignant blog post, Teng expressed profound concern for Tigran Gambaryan, a mid-level employee with no decision-making authority, who finds himself ensnared in a web of bureaucratic entanglement and arbitrary detention.

Teng says that Tigran’s professional journey, marked by a decade-long tenure as a federal cop and a steadfast commitment to combating financial crimes, stands in stark contrast to his current predicament.

According to the CEO, as the head of Binance’s Financial Crime Compliance team, Tigran played a pivotal role in spearheading initiatives to fortify compliance controls and elevate industry standards in the realm of financial crime prevention.

Tigran has devoted his professional life to fighting financial crimes. Tigran’s decade as a federal cop was documented in a book called, Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency…In 2022 and 2023, Tigran’s Financial Crime Compliance team assisted global law enforcement in freezing and seizing more than $2.2B worth of assets, including more than $285M in cooperation with United States agencies like the FBI, DOJ, DEA, and others.

Richard Teng, CEO of Binance

However, a routine meeting scheduled with Nigerian government representatives – the National Security Advisor; the Chief Executive of the SEC; and, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) – on February 26, 2024, took an unexpected turn when Tigran and his colleague, Nadeem Anjarwalla, found themselves detained without warning or recourse.

Stripped of their freedom, they were confined to a secure compound under the control of Nigerian authorities.

Teng said, “Their mobile phones were confiscated, and it was made clear to them that they were not free to leave. Both Nadeem and Tigran had no control over when and with whom they spoke.”

Richard Teng - Binance CEO
Richard Teng – Binance CEO

Teng projects strong criticism of the Nigerian government’s actions, suggesting that detaining Tigran is an unreasonable tactic to pressure Binance. He finds it suspicious that someone seemingly unimportant would be placed in a dangerous prison, implying the true motive might be exerting control over Binance rather than legitimate legal concerns.

In his blog post, Teng wrote that Binance had been assured that Gambaryan would be safe if he returned to Nigeria, as he had reported a bribery case and needed to be back in the country to investigate the matter.

According to a report by The New York Times, in January, Gambaryan received an unsettling message that Binance had 48 hours to make a payment of roughly $150 million in crypto. This unsettled the company.

So, later that month, Gambaryan wrote a three-page report describing the payment request and gave it to Binance’s lawyers. He also alerted contacts in the Nigerian government, the people said and recounted the incident to them.

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
‘Release Tigran and let’s work together’ – Binance CEO says

Teng says the company understands the importance of cooperation with regulators and law enforcement. That’s why Binance already collaborated with Nigerian authorities over 600 times “voluntarily”.

“We will always work to protect innocent users, and bad actors are not welcome on our platform. We will work tirelessly with public and private partners to remove them”, he added.

Teng believes that the Nigerian government has extraordinary power to determine the future of Binance and the broader crypto industry within its borders. He insists that inviting a company’s mid-level employees for collaborative policy meetings, only to detain them, has set a dangerous new precedent for all companies worldwide.

“At the end of the day, Binance wants to have a future where we work alongside the Nigerian government to be part of building a strong economy for the Nigerian people. But this crisis must come to a resolution quickly, and Tigran must be allowed to go home if we’re going to move forward”,

– Richard Teng concluded

For now, Gambaryan will remain in prison in Nigeria until at least May 17, following an Abuja court’s ruling to postpone a scheduled bail hearing until after he is tried on money laundering charges.


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