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EFCC fails to arraign Binance executive as Gambaryan denies being cryptocurrency platform’s agent 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has failed to arraign Binance Ltd, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla before the Federal High Court, Abuja in its suit marked FHC/ABJ/CR/138/2024. 

Their planned arraignment on Thursday was stalled following a strong objection from Gambaryan’s legal team which insisted that he is not an agent of Binance. 

Today, April 4, 2024, was scheduled by the court for the trio to take their plea in separate suits filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the EFCC. 

The EFCC accused the defendants of money laundering and foreign exchange contravention to the tune of $35,400, 000. 

In the charge sheet seen by NewsTimes, the EFCC alleged they concealed the origin of a cumulative sum of $35,400, 000 generated as revenue by BINANCE in Nigeria knowing that the funds constituted proceeds of unlawful activity. 

Some of the counts read, 

  • That you, BINANCE HOLDINGS LTD (A.KA BINANCE”) between January, 2027 and January, 2024 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court not being an authorized dealer in Nigeria’s Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market used your virtual asset services platform to unlawfully negotiate foreign exchange rates in Nigeria and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 29(1) (C) of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring And Miscellaneous Provisions) Act. 
  • “That you BlNANCE HOLDINGS LTD (“A.K.A BINANCE”), TIGRAN GAMBARYAN, NADEEM ANJARWALLA (now at large) and other persons at large between January, 2023 and January, 2024 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to conceal the origin of the proceeds of your unlawful activities and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 21 (a) and punishable under section 18(3) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022.” 

What transpired in court? 

When the court resumed on Thursday, Gambaryan’s lawyer, Mark Mordi SAN contended that his client cannot take his plea because he refused to accept service on behalf of Binance as he is not authorized by the company to do so. 

According to him, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) mandates the antigraft agency to ensure that the company (Binance) would have been served, then the company would appoint a representative in writing. 

He said it is only then can service and processes can be served on Binance. 

He added, “his client is not an executive of Binance and does not reside in Nigeria to qualify as an agent.” 

He explained further, 

  • “The first defendant(Binance) has no physical footprint in Nigeria and does not have an agent in the country. 
  • “I urge my lord to discountenance the submission of the EFCC and adjourn so that they can effect service on Binance.” 

But EFCC counsel, Ekene Iheanacho maintained that though there is no physical presence of Binance in Nigeria,  Gambaryan is the cryptocurrency platform’s agent in the country. 

  • This defendant is the only agent of Binance in Nigeria, and he qualifies to be an agent,” he added while faulting the defendant counsel for speaking for Binance. 

Justice Emeka Nwite said that given the arguments on the possibility of arraigning Gambaryan by EFCC, he would adjourn for a ruling. 

  • “April 8 for ruling. If the ruling goes in favour of the EFCC, the defendant will take his plea immediately,” the judge said. 

The court also ordered that the defendant be remanded at the EFCC custody from where he was brought to the court. 

More insights

  • Binance and its executives are faced with two separate suits from the FIRS and EFCC; the former borders on tax evasion while the latter charged them for money laundering and foreign exchange contravention. 
  • NewsTimes also recalls that the executives have also instituted a fundamental rights case against agencies of the Nigerian government, citing a violation of their constitutional right to liberty. 
  • On February 28, Nigerian authorities detained two senior Binance executives: Nadeem Anjarwalla, a 37-year-old British-Kenyan who serves as the regional manager for Africa, and Tigran Gambaryan, a 39-year-old American who is the head of financial crime compliance at Binance. 
  • Following the federal government’s ban on cryptocurrency channels as part of a campaign against currency speculation, the Binance executives visited Nigeria for a meeting. 
  • The Naira has experienced a significant devaluation of its currency, with the naira losing 70% of its value against the dollar since the foreign exchange reforms were implemented last year, a situation worsened by a shortage of dollars locally. 
  • The NSA later confirmed that Nadeem had fled the country. 

 

 


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