Nigeria Drops Tax Charges Against Binance Execs, Money-Laundering Trial Awaits

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The court ruled that Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan can stand trial on behalf of the crypto exchange in an ongoing tax evasion case.

The Nigerian government has dropped tax evasion charges against senior executives of Binance, a leading cryptocurrency exchange. However, the executives still face serious allegations of money laundering, for which a trial is set to commence soon. 

On Friday, a Nigerian court ruled that Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan can stand trial on behalf of the cryptocurrency exchange in an ongoing tax evasion case.   

Gambaryan’s Case on Money Laundering

Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and head of financial crimes compliance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan national serving as the regional manager for Africa, face four counts of tax evasion. 

In a separate case, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla have been charged with laundering over $35 million and conducting specialized financial activities without a license. Both have pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charges. 

Following Friday’s court hearing, Binance’s lawyer declined to comment, and Gambaryan’s lawyer refrained from making any statements. 

“We are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained,” a Binance spokesperson issued a statement on Friday following the court hearing. “These charges against him are completely meritless. He should be freed while discussions continue between Binance and Nigerian government officials,” the exchange’s spokesperson continued.  

Gambaryan remains in custody for now, while Anjarwalla fled the country in March. Nigeria’s security adviser’s office has stated that it is collaborating with Interpol to secure Anjarwalla’s arrest.   

Binance Officials and Nigerian Authorities

Binance’s CEO, Richard Teng, accused the company of setting a dangerous precedent by inviting its executives to discuss crypto with authorities in February, only to detain them as part of a crackdown on crypto.  

Binance officials have alleged that Nigerian authorities demanded a $150 million bribe in crypto from the executives during a visit in January.  

Nigerian authorities dismissed the claim as “an attempt to distract and divert attention from the criminal case allegation against the exchange” and demanded an apology. The authorities also accused Binance of employing “sophisticated criminality” to facilitate the escape of one of its employees.  

Binance has not been charged in the tax evasion case by Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). However, FIRS has stated that Gambaryan could face the charges on behalf of the exchange. 

The senior executive’s lawyer has previously argued that Gambaryan was “neither a director, partner, nor company secretary” and had no written authorization from Binance to face the charges on its behalf. However, on Friday, Judge Emeka Nwite ruled that Gambaryan should be served with the charges against Binance, citing his position as the chief financial compliance officer and his official appointment to represent the company in meetings in Nigeria.   

Gambarya is scheduled to be tried in court on Wednesday to enter a plea on behalf of the crypto exchange. On Friday, his bail application connected to the money laundering case was denied.