Binance exec Tigran Gambaryan transferred to an underground jail cell as Nigerian crisis escalates

Binance exec Tigran Gambaryan transferred to an underground jail cell as Nigerian crisis escalates
Tigran Gambaryan, the head of financial crime compliance at Binance, has been held for five weeks in Nigeria. Credit: Andrés Tapia
  • The escape of Binance exec Nadeem Anjarwalla prompted transfer, official tells DL News.
  • Gambaryan was under house arrest.
  • The move is a targeted escalation against Binance by Nigeria’s government, source says.

Tigran Gambaryan’s plight in Nigeria has gone from bad to worse.

The Binance senior executive has been incarcerated in a jail managed by Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency following a five-week detention in a government guest house, according to an official familiar with the case.

The transfer was made to prevent Gambaryan from escaping custody after his colleague, Nadeem Anjarwalla, managed to elude guards and fly out of Nigeria on March 22, the official told DL News.

Basement cell

Gambaryan, who has been charged alongside Binance with money laundering and tax violations, appeared in court on Thursday looking wan and despondent.

With his arraignment delayed until April 19 after officials erred in procedural matters, Gambaryan will be held in the basement of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s head office in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.

The facility’s four-person cells have camp beds, many without sheets, and it runs a modest clinic for prisoners’ emergency care.

“Some effort has been made for his comfort,” the official told DL News. “He has fresh sheets and a shower stall that is supposed to be communal all to himself.”

At the guest house, there was a housekeeper and Gambaryan had freshly made smoothies each morning, DL News has learned.

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He also had access to his phone and could communicate with his family, albeit under guard.

Fro the beginning of this crisis in February, Gambaryan has been a pawn in the clash between the world’s top crypto exchange and the leaders of Africa’s most populous nation.

No response

Gambaryan is the head of Binance’s financial crime compliance unit, according to his LinkedIn profile. As such, he doesn’t decision-making authority when it comes to the exchange’s global operations.

A Binance spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment on the latest developments in the case.

A separate spokesperson contacted DL News Friday and asked that Gambaryan be identified as “an employee” at the crypto exchange rather than by his formal senior executive title.

Gambaryan was forced to surrender his US passport weeks ago when state security officials took him and Anjarwalla, into custody shortly after their arrival in Nigeria to discuss the government’s complaints about the crypto exchange’s operations.

Anjarwalla, a British lawyer, fled Nigeria after being taken to a nearby mosque for prayers with a passport he had concealed from his captors.

DL News reported that the guards assigned to watch Anjarwalla were interrogated about his escape.

The two men were detained under the orders of Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria’s national security adviser.

The EFCC is overseeing a wide-ranging investigation into whether Binance facilitated illicit funding and currency manipulation.

Targeted move

The probe followed claims by several Nigerian officials, including the central bank governor and the country’s economic team, that Binance allowed speculators on its platform to degrade the value of the naira.

The transfer of Gambaryan is a targeted escalation by the government to force a response from Binance, the official said.

Authorities may transfer Gambaryan to a federal detention centre if the case goes to trial.

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