Tuesday, 09 April 2024 05:02

Court sends Binance executive to Kuje prison ahead of trial in May

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A Binance Holdings Ltd. executive detained for more than 40 days in Nigeria after being invited by the government and then charged with tax evasion and fraud has been sent to prison ahead of trial in May.

A court ordered Tigran Gambaryan, head of financial compliance at Binance, to be remanded at the Kuje correctional center in the capital Abuja on Monday, despite his counsel pleading that he remain in the custody of the anti-graft commission.

Gambaryan was charged alongside Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, and in his first appearance in court on April 4, argued that he could not be served the company’s charges as he was not authorized by his employer to receive it.

On Monday, Emeka Nwite ruled that Gambaryan had earlier admitted to visiting Nigeria as a representative of Binance which “clearly shows his involvement” with the company within Nigeria, and so could be served in lieu of his employer.

He was charged with tax evasion, currency speculation and money laundering of $34 million by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. He pleaded not guilty.

“We are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained,” a Binance spokesperson said in an emailed statement, calling for his release.

“These charges against him are merit-less. It’s outrageous that he would be remanded in a prison such as Kuje Correctional Facility.”

Nwite fixed April 18 for hearing on Gambaryan’s bail application and May 5 for trial.

Another Binance executive — Nadeem Anjarwalla — who was detained at the same time as Gambaryan, and has UK and Kenyan citizenship, fled the West African country last month.

The two men had traveled to Nigeria late February at the invitation of the authorities to meet officials after the government blocked access to cryptocurrency channels amid a clampdown on currency speculation.

Many residents of Africa’s most-populous nation have flocked to cryptoassets amid a plunge in the value of the naira. That prompted a state crackdown on platforms offering digital tokens.

 

Bloomberg

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