Binance exec jailed alongside terrorists in Nigeria hopes to make bail after numerous delays

Binance exec jailed alongside terrorists in Nigeria hopes to make bail after numerous delays
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Detained Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan has been held in Nigeria for almost two months. Credit: Andrés Tapia
  • Tigran Gambaryan has been detained for weeks in Nigeria.
  • The former IRS agent is incarcerated in same facility as Islamic State terrorists.
  • Nigerian officials say they tracked down another wanted Binance exec.

Three weeks after being charged with money laundering in Nigeria, Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan is still waiting for a bail hearing.

The US citizen was supposed to have an opportunity to ask a judge for his conditional release on Thursday, pending trial.

But the hearing was delayed by procedural mixups and Gambaryan was returned to his cell until at least Monday, according to court proceedings monitored by DL News.

Gambaryan has pleaded not guilty to charges he took part in a $35 million money laundering scheme laid out in an indictment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, or EFCC, which is Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency.

Binance, the world’s top crypto exchange, was also charged with money laundering and tax evasion counts, and has yet to respond to the allegations. The company hasn’t been represented by lawyers in the proceedings so far.

Legal mixups

On Thursday, Justice Emeka Nwite adjourned the bail hearing after the EFCC’s lawyer requested more time to respond to new papers filed by Gambaryan’s lawyers.

The EFCC opposed Gambaryan’s bail request in an initial hearing on April 8.

In a related development, Nigerian officials say they have tracked down Nadeem Anjarwalla, the company’s Kenya-based regional manager.

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Anjarwalla, a UK lawyer, was detained with Gambaryan at the end of February but managed to elude his guards and escape the nation on March 22 with a second passport.

Nigeria’s state security officials have located Anjarwalla in Kenya and are negotiating with authorities in that country to extradite him, according to people close to the investigation.

Meanwhile, Gambaryan, a former special agent of the US Internal Revenue Service, has become a pawn in the bitter legal dispute between Binance and Nigerian economic and state security officials.

After the African nation’s fiat currency, the naira, collapsed earlier this year, the government accused Binance of facilitating foreign exchange market manipulation and executing illicit financial transactions.

Binance denied the allegations and dispatched Gambaryan and Anjarwalla to discuss the conflict with Nigerian officials.

Tracing escaped Binance exec

No sooner did they arrive in Abuja, the capital, than talks broke down and the two men were detained.

Gambaryan is incarcerated in Kuje Prison, a facility that also holds Boko Haram and Islamic State terrorists.

During Thursday’s proceedings, Ekele Iheanacho, the EFCC’s lawyer, requested an adjournment to provide sufficient time to respond to a new affidavit submitted by Gambaryan’s lawyer, Mark Mordi.

Despite not objecting to the request for adjournment, Gambaryan’s attorney said the EFCC’s lawyer was withholding an intelligence report alleging that his client is a flight risk due to his dual nationality status.

Gambaryan was born in Yerevan, Armenia, and holds US citizenship.

His lawyer Mordi said the EFCC’s counsel deliberately withheld the intelligence report as part of the agency’s objection to Gambaryan’s bail application.

“The liberty of my client is at stake,” Mordi said in court.

Gambaryan’s trial is scheduled to begin May 2.

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