Nigeria Sends Binance Executive to Prison Ahead of Fraud, Tax Evasion Trial

Tigran Gambaryan, the head of financial crime compliance at Binance, has been remanded by a Nigerian court to the Kuje Correctional Centre pending the determination of his bail application.

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Nigeria Sends Binance Executive to Prison Ahead of Fraud, Tax Evasion Trial
Tigran Gambaryan attends court in Abuja, Nigeria on April 4.Photographer: David Exodus/Bloomberg

Tigran Gambaryan, a Binance Holdings Ltd. executive who was detained in Nigeria after being invited by the government, has been sent to prison ahead of his trial in May. Gambaryan, head of financial compliance at Binance, faces charges of tax evasion and fraud.

What Happened?

Gambaryan was detained over 40 days ago and has now been remanded to the Kuje correctional center in Abuja, awaiting his trial in May. Justice Emeka Nwite made the ruling after Gambaryan pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Despite pleas from his lawyer to remain in anti-graft commission custody, the court decided to move him to the correctional facility. Gambaryan’s lawyer, Mark Mordi, emphasized “I am happy to go to trial but there is a question of the second defendant’s custody. He has been in custody for 40 days. This is a foreign national. There’s nothing more significant than where he is going after here. We are created by God and the greatest thing anyone can have is freedom.”

Conversely, the prosecution insisted on the appropriateness of his detention, noting that similar situations involve Nigerians abroad. The counsel for the EFCC, E.E. Iheanacho told the court that: “The proper place to be post-arraignment is a correctional centre. We have Nigerians convicted in the US. His detention was proper. They raised a preliminary objection, which the magistrate court dismissed.”

The judge adjourned the matter till April 18 for the ruling on Gambaryan’s bail application and May 2 for the trial.

Back Story

Tigran Gambaryan, the head of financial crime compliance at Binance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan Binance regional manager for Africa, were detained in Nigeria in February 2024. Initially, they were taken into custody without being charged with any crimes, but were later accused by the Nigerian government of wreaking havoc on the country’s local currency and facilitating speculation on the price of the naira through Binance’s peer-to-peer marketplace.

In March, Anjarwalla escaped custody and fled Nigeria. Details about his escape are sparse, but reports suggest that Anjarwalla managed to flee while being taken to a mosque for prayers, taking advantage of the less stringent security measures in place for the observance of Ramadan.

Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) had accused Binance, Gambaryan, and Anjarwalla of tax evasion, while the EFCC accused the same parties of laundering money leading to the company pulling its services out of Nigeria on March 5.

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