July 24, 2024
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Nigeria’s EFCC Refuses To Let Binance’s Tigran Gambaryan Go

Nigeria’s EFCC Refuses To Let Binance’s Tigran Gambaryan Go
  • Nigeria’s EFCC has refused to let Binance’s Tigran Gambaryan go as the body continues to pursue money laundering charges against the Binance exec despite FIRS dropping related tax evasion charges.
  • Gambaryan is accused of laundering $35.4 million and is suspected of terrorism financing, with the trial ongoing at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
  • US Representative French Hill has called for Gambaryan’s release, highlighting his deteriorating health conditions in Nigerian custody.

Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is not backing down in the money laundering case against Tigran Gambaryan, the executive director at Binance.

The EFCC’s persistence comes despite the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) dropping related tax evasion charges against Gambaryan and Binance.

EFCC’s Case Moves Forward

Hopes were high that the EFCC would follow FIRS’s lead and drop the case, but the agency decided to move forward. 

At the hearing, the EFCC’s lawyer informed the court that the defense was set to cross-examine the agency’s first prosecution witness, Abdulkadir Abbas, a Director with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Gambaryan then took the stand.

Nigeria’s EFCC Refuses To Let Binance’s Tigran Gambaryan Go

The EFCC filed a five-count charge against Binance and Gambaryan, accusing them of laundering $35.4 million. The company is also suspected of financing terrorism. The FIRS initially filed a four-count charge but recently dropped it.

Justice Emeka Nwite had previously discharged Gambaryan and his colleague, Nadeem Anjarwalla, from the tax evasion charges, citing a brand new charge filed by FIRS after Binance appointed a Nigerian representative, Mr. Ayodele Omotilewa.

Gambaryan, who is Indian, was cross-examined by Mr. Babatunde Fagbohunlu (SAN), counsel for the defense. 

Abbas testified against Binance and Gambaryan, stating that any private company looking to raise capital in Nigeria must become a Public Limited Company (PLC) before engaging in an Initial Public Offer (IPO). He pointed out that Binance had not registered with his office.

Justice Nwite adjourned the case for further cross-examination of Abbas.

US Lawmakers Advocate For The Release Of Gambaryan

Meanwhile, the conditions of Gambaryan’s detention have sparked concern among US lawmakers. 

Representative French Hill tweeted about his visit to Gambaryan in Kuje Prison, Nigeria.

Hill described finding Gambaryan suffering from malaria and double pneumonia, having lost a lot of weight, and being denied proper medical care.

Hill praised Nigeria for dropping the tax evasion charges but expressed his belief that Gambaryan is wrongfully detained on the money laundering charges.

French Hill said,

“It’s my view that he’s being wrongfully detained on charges related to money laundering. Tigran has devoted his professional life to fighting money laundering and tax evasion, having spent ten years as an IRS Special Agent where he successfully led cyber and financial crime investigations.”

Hill, along with Representative Chrissy Houlahan and other colleagues, urged President Biden, Secretary Blinken, and the State Department to secure Gambaryan’s immediate release. 

Over 100 former federal prosecutors and agents have also written to Secretary Blinken, advocating for his release.