How Binance exec made daring escape from Nigerian custody after prayer service

How Binance exec made daring escape from Nigerian custody after prayer service
Binance compliance exec Tigran Gambaryan (left) remains detained in Nigeria while Nadeem Anjarwalla escaped last week. Credit: Darren Joseph
  • Nadeem Anjarwalla managed to jet out of the African nation on Friday.
  • He and colleague Tigran Gambaryan have been detained without charge for more than a month.
  • Nigeria's tax agency filed charges against Binance.

And then there was one.

In an audacious escape right out of a Hollywood thriller, Nadeem Anjarwalla, one of the two senior Binance executives detained by Nigeria for weeks, slipped away from his guards and jetted out of the African nation on Friday.

The key: he used a second passport he had apparently concealed from authorities when he was taken into custody almost a month ago, according to a government official familiar with the case.

Shocking twist

The development is a shocking twist in the clash between Nigeria and the world’s top crypto exchange.

In related action, Nigeria’s tax agency, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, filed charges against Binance and its executives on Friday.

In a four-count motion, the FIRS accused Binance of running an unregistered company in Nigeria and failing to remit taxes on behalf of itself and its users.

Binance did not respond to requests for comment from DL News.

The conflict began months ago when Nigerian officials alleged that Binance was facilitating currency manipulation and illicit financial transactions.

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At the end of February, Anjarwalla, Binance’s Kenya-based regional manager and Tigran Gambaryan, the US-based head of Binance’s financial crimes compliance unit, flew to Nigeria to try and resolve the matter.

No sooner did the two executives arrive than talks broke down and the National Security Agency confiscated their passports and detained them in a government guest house under guard.

The two men were not charged. Gambaryan, a US citizen and former senior agent with the Internal Revenue Service, remains in custody.

Detention extended

Even as Nigerian courts were poised to extend their detention for another two weeks, Anjarwalla, a British lawyer educated at Oxford and Stanford, was making other plans.

On Friday, he persuaded state security guards to let him attend prayers in a mosque adjacent to the guest house where has been detained. Anjarwalla is an observant Muslim who has been fasting during Ramadan.

Yet Anjarwalla failed to emerge with the other congregants at the end of the prayers. That led to a frenzied search of the surrounding areas but he was not found.

The authorities later learned Anjarwalla flew out of the country. It became apparent that while he had surrendered his UK passport he must have kept his Kenyan one, a person familiar with the matter told DL News.

The guards who were assigned to him have been detained for questioning in connection with Anjarwalla’s escape, the person familiar with the probe said.

State security officials are trying to figure out how Anjarwalla was able to coordinate the escape attempt and gain access to his Kenyan passport.

Nigeria authorities blamed Binance for enabling alleged currency speculation and foreign exchange manipulation on its platform. These practices weakened Nigeria’s already ailing fiat currency, the naira, officials said.

Customer data

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nigeria’s anti-corruption police, has been leading a wide-ranging investigation into the matter. The EFCC heads an interagency committee that is exploring a laundry list of alleged crimes against Binance.

Last week, the EFCC filed another motion to extend the detention period for a further two weeks and the court is expected to rule on the matter on April 5. The previous detention order ended on March 12.

Also last week, a Nigerian court ordered Binance to hand over customer details of all of its users in the country. There are an estimated 13 million Binance users in Nigeria.

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