Binance slammed with $35m money-laundering charge in Nigeria

Binance slammed with $35m money-laundering charge in Nigeria
Tigran Gambaryan of Binance. Credit: Andrés Tapia
  • Nigeria charges Binance with money laundering.
  • One Binance executive is still being held in Nigeria.
  • Binance files suit against Nigerian authorities.

Nigeria’s government charged Binance with money laundering to the tune of $35.4 million on Thursday in the latest salvo between Africa’s most populous nation and the crypto exchange.

The case filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nigeria’s anti-corruption police, includes a five-count charge against Binance and two of its executives, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, according to court documents seen by DL News.

Both men had been detained in Nigeria since late February, but Anjarwalla, Binance’s Africa regional manager, escaped custody last week under mysterious circumstances.

Gambaryan, a US citizen and Binance’s financial crimes compliance unit chief, is still being held.

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The EFCC accused Binance and its executives of illicit activity, money laundering, and operating without a license between 2022 and 2024, even though the exchange was doing business in the country before 2022.

Nigerian authorities previously blamed Binance for enabling currency speculation and foreign-exchange manipulation that allegedly weakened the country’s already ailing fiat currency, the naira.

The Binance executives visited Nigeria to negotiate with state officials, but were detained by the government after talks broke down.

Nigeria’s government secured a court order to force Binance to hand over details of its Nigerian users, estimated at more than 13 million.

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The exchange has delisted the country’s currency from its platform and blocked access to its website for users in Nigeria.

Binance is now facing two separate criminal charges in Nigeria, following Thursday’s filing by the EFCC. Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service, the country’s tax agency, had already charged the exchange with tax evasion.

Apart from the criminal proceedings, Nigeria’s government is also seeking to extend the custody of the Binance executive. That case will resume with a hearing on April 4.

Meanwhile, Gambaryan has sued the EFCC and Nigerian National Security Adviser Nuhu Ribadu, alleging human rights violations, DL News has learned.

Gambaryan’s suit asked the court to order his release from detention and demanded a public apology from the EFCC and Nigeria’s NSA.

Gambaryan’s lawyers filed a similar suit on behalf of Anjarwalla, who fled custody last week.

The presiding judge adjourned that case until April 8.

Neither Binance nor the EFCC immediately responded to requests for comments.

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.