HomeNewsLawyer Kicks Over EFCC Errors As Binance Official Makes First Court Appearance

Lawyer Kicks Over EFCC Errors As Binance Official Makes First Court Appearance

One of the two executives from Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, has appeared in an Abuja court to face tax evasion and money laundering charges.

Binance and two of its executives Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Binance’s head of financial crime compliance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan who is a regional manager for Africa, have been charged with four counts of tax evasion and with laundering over $35 million.

Binance’s compliance chief Tigran Gambaryan looked despondent and thin as he entered the Federal High Court in Nigeria’s capital city on Thursday to face tax evasion and $35 million money laundering charges.

Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were detained on Feb. 26 in connection with a criminal investigation into Binance’s activities in Nigeria when they arrived in the country. Anjarwalla escaped from custody and fled the country.

Gambaryan was served with the charges for the first time since his detention during his court appearance on Thursday.

He did not take a plea.

He will be formally arraigned for the money laundering and tax charges on April 8 and 19, respectively, when his plea will be taken.

Binance itself has not been charged by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which has argued Gambaryan could face the charges on the exchange’s behalf.

Gambaryan’s lawyer Chukwuka Ikuazom objected, saying he was “neither a director, partner nor company secretary” and had no written instructions from Binance to face the charges on its behalf.

Ikuazom also argued that since Binance and Gambaryan were jointly charged, he could not take a plea until the exchange, the first defendant in the case, had been served, according to Nigerian law.

Binance, which was not represented in court and had no immediate comment, said on Wednesday that it respectfully requested that Gambaryan, who had no decision-making power in the company, was not held responsible while discussions are ongoing with the Nigerian government.

Gambaryan has asked a Nigerian court to release him.

Nigeria blamed Binance for its currency woes after cryptocurrency websites emerged as platforms of choice for trading the Nigerian naira currency, as the country grappled with chronic dollar shortages.

Meanwhile, Nigerian officials conceded that they made some errors in filing.

They had failed to serve Gambaryan and his lawyers with the proper papers detailing the cases against him.

As a result, the court postponed his arraignment until April 19.

Moses Ideho, the lawyer representing the Federal Inland Revenue Service, acknowledged the mistake and said the agency has been unable to reach Gambaryan, who has been in the custody of the state since the end of February.

Both the FIRS and Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have filed criminal complaints against Gambaryan, his colleague Nadeem Anjarwalla, and Binance itself.

Anjarwalla, a British lawyer, is being prosecuted in absentia after he managed to escape Nigerian custody in late March.

Given the chaotic nature of the proceedings, Ideho asked the court to stop the plea proceedings and allow Gambaryan to confer with his lawyers.

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