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Nigeria set dangerous precedent by detaining employee – Binance CEO

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The Chief Executive Officer of Binance, Mr. Richard Teng has described the detention of its employee, Tigran Gambaryan by the Nigerian government as “unjust” and a “dangerous precedent” for international businesses.

Teng also said that despite Binance’s repeated efforts at constructive engagement and cooperation with Nigerian authorities, Gambaryan remains in detention for “spurious” reasons.

In a statement to newsmen on Tuesday, the Binance CEO said: “To invite a company’s mid-level employees for collaborative policy meetings, only to detain them, has set a dangerous new precedent for all companies worldwide.

“The message from the Nigerian government is clear: we must detain an innocent, mid-level employee, a former U.S. federal agent, and place him in a dangerous prison to control Binance.

“This regrettable turn of events contradicts the spirit of cooperation and transparency that Binance has consistently demonstrated in its interactions with the regulatory authorities”.

On 26 February, Gambaryan and his colleague Nadeem Anjarwalla were arrested upon arrival in the country in connection with criminal investigation into Binance’s activities in Nigeria.

Anjarwalla escaped custody, while Gambaryan continues to remain in detention at the Kuje Correctional Centre pending the determination of his bail application.

The Nigerian government blamed Binance for Naira depreciation, accusing it of fixing exchange rate prices on its platform, the biggest crypto exchange globally.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) accused Binance, Gambaryan, and his fleeing colleague, Anjarwalla, of concealing the source of the $35.4 million generated as revenue by Binance in Nigeria, knowing that the funds constituted proceeds of unlawful activity.

Gambaryan, who was arraigned in April on charges including tax evasion, currency speculation, and money laundering, was scheduled for trial on 2 May.

However, the proceedings were postponed at a Federal High Court in Abuja due to EFCC’s inability to serve relevant papers to the defence.

Justice Emeka Nwite adjourned hearing until 17 May. This came as Gambaryan awaits a ruling on his bail application.

However, the Binance CEO said the Nigerian authorities were unjustly detaining one of its mid-level employees who has no decision-making powers.

He noted that the crisis “must come to a resolution quickly, and Tigran must be allowed to go home if we’re going to move forward”.

He reiterated Binance’s commitment to cooperate with Nigerian law enforcement, citing over 600 voluntary engagements with authorities in the past.

The crypto exchange revealed that one of the key focuses of Binance’s efforts is ongoing engagement with Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service to address potential historic tax liabilities.

Teng acknowledged Nigeria’s significant influence over the future of Binance and the broader crypto industry within its borders, underscoring the importance of collaboration with the Nigerian authorities.

He further outlined Binance’s vision of working alongside the Nigerian government to contribute to the development of a robust economy for the Nigerian people.

Teng said: “Over the past two and a half years, Binance has worked hard to restructure our organisation and personnel and upgrade our systems. We have new leadership in place with deep compliance experience and impressive backgrounds ranging from top traditional financial institutions and leading tech companies, to law enforcement and major corporate entities.

“We continue to do anything and everything we can to support Gambaryan. This support is unwavering. Tigran did not go to Nigeria as a decision-maker, nor a negotiator. He was merely acting as a functional expert in financial crime and capacity building in policy discussions”.

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