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FG withdraws tax charges against Binance executives

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Binance sighed relief on Friday as the Federal High Court in Abuja cleared Tigran Gambaryan, a 39-year-old American and fleeing Nadeem Anjarwalla, of tax evasion charges filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

The court’s decision came after the FIRS submitted amended charges that effectively dropped the tax evasion allegations against Gambaryan and his colleague, who absconded to Kenya.

This change followed Binance’s notification of appointing a Nigerian representative, Ayodele Omotilewa, to handle its local operations. The original charges, filed on 22 March 2024, accused Binance and Gambaryan of tax evasion.

The largest crypto exchange, in a shared note with Saturday PUNCH stated, “We are relieved that the Federal Inland Revenue Service has served and filed amended charges today, resulting in tax charges against Tigran Gambaryan being dropped.

“This further illustrates that Tigran is not a decision-maker at Binance and does not need to be held in order for Binance to resolve issues with the Nigerian government. We await the court’s ruling on this, discharging Tigran from this matter completely”.

The crypto exchange also called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to take similar steps, allowing Gambaryan to return home to his family.

They emphasised his deteriorating health due to 110 days of detention, during which he was diagnosed with malaria and pneumonia.

“We commend the FIRS for their diligence and professionalism throughout this process. This situation unequivocally demonstrates Binance’s commitment to resolving this issue with the government transparently and cooperatively.

“In order for Tigran to be allowed to go home to his family, we are hopeful that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will take similar steps.

“Tigran has been detained for 110 days, and his physical health is deteriorating, including a recent malaria and pneumonia diagnosis. Binance is committed to continuing to work with the Nigerian government to resolve this”, Binance added.

The next hearing in this case is scheduled for 19th June where the application for an order for the enforcement of fundamental rights will be heard.

The EFCC trial is to continue on 20th June, while Tigran remains in Kuje prison.

Since Tigran collapsed in court on 23rd May with Malaria, his health conditions have worsened, culminating in pneumonia.

Despite a court order by Justice Emeka Nwite to take Tigran to a hospital immediately, it took the prison authorities 11 days to take him for a brief check-up.

According to Saturday PUNCH 16 US Members of Congress including the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul wrote to President Biden last week, highlighting that he is a “U.S. Citizen wrongfully detained by a foreign government”, and urging him to do more to secure his release.

The Federal Government had accused the cryptocurrency exchange of manipulating foreign exchange (FX) rates, which led to increased scrutiny of crypto trading platforms.

Separately, the EFCC is prosecuting Binance and its executives on charges of alleged money laundering and foreign exchange violations.

On 28 February 2024, Nigerian authorities detained two senior Binance executives when they arrived in Nigeria for a meeting following the Federal Government’s ban on cryptocurrency channels, part of a broader campaign against currency speculation.

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