Binance decries ‘outrageous’ decision to send exec Tigran Gambaryan to prison in Nigeria

Binance decries ‘outrageous’ decision to send exec Tigran Gambaryan to prison in Nigeria
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Tigran Gambaryan is to be held in a Nigerian prison pending his trial. Photocredit: Daily Post Nigeria
  • Judge rejects defence argument mounted by Binance's US-based compliance head.
  • Binance is also charged with money laundering and tax violations in Nigeria.
  • Crisis deepens for crypto exchange in Africa's most populous nation.

It took six weeks, but Tigran Gambaryan finally got to proclaim his innocence in a Nigerian courtoom.

Gambaryan, a senior US Binance executive, pleaded not guilty Monday to money laundering charges and was remanded to prison to await trial.

Gambaryan’s lawyer argued that his client should not be held responsible for Binance’s activities in the African nation because he does not have decision-making authority in the company’s business operations.

Gambaryan is the head of the crypto exchange’s financial crime compliance unit, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Past trips

But Justice Emeka Nwite rejected Gambaryan’s argument and ruled that he has acted as Binance’s representative in past trips to Nigeria to train officials on detecting crypto fraud.

Gambaryan, a former special agent of the US Internal Revenue Service, has helped Nigerian officials recover $400,000 in crypto crime proceeds, according to Binance.

Nwite cited Binance’s own recent statements designating Gambaryan as a company agent. The judge dismissed Gambaryan’s defence as “neither here nor there,” according to proceedings monitored by DL News.

Gambaryan will be held in Kuje Prison, a medium-security detention facility in Abuja, the capital, until at least April 18. This is when he will have a hearing to determine if he can be released on bail.

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Binance decried the charges against Gambaryan as “meritless.”

‘It’s outrageous that he would be remanded in a prison such as Kuje Correctional Facility.’

—  Binance spokesperson

“We are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained,” a company spokesperson told DL News on Monday.

“Tigran has been dedicated to public service and fighting crime for most of his life. These charges against him are meritless.

“It’s outrageous that he would be remanded in a prison such as Kuje Correctional Facility.”

The developments mark a grave escalation of Gambaryan’s legal situation.

In the last week or so, Gambaryan has gone from being under house arrest with no charge to facing a five-count, $35 million money laundering indictment from the confines of a cell.

Binance is also charged with the same allegations.

Guest house

Gambaryan’s lawyer, Mark Mordi, did not immediately respond to DL News’ request for comment.

Gambaryan and his colleague Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British citizen and Binance’s regional manager in Kenya, were detained in a government guest house shortly after arriving in Nigeria at the end of February.

Nigerian security and anti-corruption officials had opened a wide-ranging investigation into whether the crypto exchange, which is not licenced in the nation, was facilitating currency manipulation and illicit financial transactions.

Gambaryan and Anjarwalla landed in Abuja to discuss the issues when talks broke down.

Anajarwalla managed to elude his guards after a prayer service in a mosque on March 22 and fled the country with a second passport he had not surrendered.

Gambaryan and Binance also face tax evasion charges filed by Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service.

Justice Nwite set May 2 as the start of the trial proceedings for both Binance and Gambaryan.

Updated on April 8 to report Binance’s comments on the latest development.

Osato Avan-Nomayo is our Nigeria-based DeFi correspondent. He covers DeFi and tech. To share tips or information about stories, please contact him at osato@dlnews.com.