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Nigeria drops tax charges against Binance execs, money laundering case persist



The Nigerian government has dropped charges against Binance executives, but their freedom remains uncertain due to an ongoing money laundering case.

The government of Nigeria has dropped tax evasion charges against Binance executives Tigran Gambaryan and Najeem Anjarwalla, who were arrested months ago, but the money laundering case with the EFCC remains. 

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria’s federal tax agency, initially charged Gambaryan and another Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla. While Anjarwalla escaped custody and fled to Kenya, Gambaryan remained detained.

The decision to drop the case came just a week after sixteen U.S. lawmakers accused Nigeria of holding Gambaryan hostage. In a statement dated June 4, the lawmakers described the charges as “baseless” and a coercion tactic by the Nigerian government to extort Binance.

The letter, addressed to the U.S. President, asserted that Gambaryan was “wrongfully detained by a foreign government.”

As part of the resolution, the FIRS has agreed to revise the charges so that only Binance, through its local representatives, is named in the case. Consequently, Gambaryan will no longer need to appear in court, as Binance becomes the sole defendant in the case.

Despite the tax evasion charges being dropped, Gambaryan remains in the custody of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) – the nation’s anti-graft agency due to a separate money laundering charge. Reports indicate that Gambaryan, who has been diagnosed with malaria and pneumonia, will continue to be detained by the EFCC.

Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were officially charged with tax evasion weeks after their arrests in March. The FIRS alleged that Binance failed to pay taxes on cryptocurrency transactions worth billions of naira.

Gambaryan first appeared in court in late February 2024 to face money laundering charges and has been held in custody for 110 days.

The next hearing in the money laundering case is scheduled for June 19, and the trial will resume the following day. This ongoing legal battle highlights the challenges and complexities surrounding regulating and taxation of cryptocurrency transactions in Nigeria.

See why the Federal high court in Abuja denied Binance executives’ bail application.

The arrests of the Binance executives in late February initially began as rumors on social media before being confirmed.

Their detention coincided with the Nigerian government’s efforts to stabilize the country’s currency amidst concerns about speculative trading, illicit financial activities, and plans to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).

Binance halted all trading activities involving the naira to demonstrate cooperation with the Nigerian government. However, this measure proved insufficient to resolve the broader issues at play.

The Nigerian government’s crackdown on cryptocurrency activities is part of a broader strategy to regulate the sector and curb illegal financial practices. The country has seen a significant increase in cryptocurrency usage, prompting authorities to take a more stringent approach to oversight and enforcement.

Binance, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges globally, has faced scrutiny from various governments worldwide.

The situation in Nigeria underscores the complexities and legal challenges that arise as governments grapple with regulating digital assets and their associated financial activities.

As the legal proceedings continue, the cryptocurrency community and regulatory bodies will closely watch the outcome of Gambaryan’s money laundering case. The resolution of these charges could have huge implications for the future of cryptocurrency regulation and enforcement in Nigeria and the continent.

In the meantime, Gambaryan’s health remains a concern, with his diagnoses of malaria and pneumonia adding to the urgency of resolving his legal situation. The trial date is set for June 20th.

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