Jailed Binance exec in Nigeria is struck by malaria amid anguished pleas from his lawyers and family

Jailed Binance exec in Nigeria is struck by malaria amid anguished pleas from his lawyers and family
RegulationPeople & culture
Tigran Gambaryan is Binance's head of financial crime compliance. Credit: Andrés Tapia
  • Tigran Gambaryan collapsed in court last Thursday.
  • A Nigerian court permitted the Binance man to be hospitalised.
  • Malaria can be fatal for people who haven't built up immunities, his lawyers told the court.

Tigran Gambaryan, the Binance executive jailed in Nigeria for nine weeks, is suffering from malaria and a throat infection, DL News has learned.

Last Thursday, Gambaryan collapsed in court on the second day of his trial in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, on a money laundering charge.

He was hospitalised amid pleas from his wife Yuki that her 40-year-old husband is being mistreated by Nigerian authorities as part of his “unjust detention.”

It is unclear whether Gambaryan, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his family, contracted malaria during his time in Nigeria. He arrived in the tropical African nation on February 26 for talks with officials on Binance’s crypto operations.

Gaunt and stressed

In his brief court appearance last week, Gambaryan looked gaunt and stressed. He has been held at Kuje Prison in Abuja since April 8.

Justice Emeka Nwite, who is presiding over his trial, denied the Binance man bail on May 17 after finding him to be a flight risk.

While more than 240 million people worldwide suffer from malaria, those who live outside the equatorial zone may be more vulnerable to the mosquito-borne disease because they have not built up natural resistances.

“Malaria is a severe disease for American citizens which can result in death because they do not have the immunity that ordinary Nigerians have against the disease,” Gambaryan’s legal team said in a letter to the court read by DL News.

Join the community to get our latest stories and updates

Indeed, the US Centers for Disease Control advises its citizens to complete a full course of malaria prophylactic medication before travelling to Nigeria.

Last week, Mark Mordi, Gambaryan’s lead lawyer, asked the court to authorise his transfer to Nizamiye Hospital, an upscale private medical facility in Abuja.

Justice Nwite agreed to the request.

“My husband is a strong, healthy person but he is facing an environment that would bring even the strongest among us to our knees,” Gambaryan’s wife, Yuki, said in a statement sent to DL News last week. “My husband is sick, he needs help.”

Simmering dispute

Gambaryan and his colleague Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British lawyer, came to Nigeria to settle a simmering dispute with the country’s government and the company.

Nigeria’s government blamed Binance for allowing its platform to be used for foreign exchange racketeering.

When talks broke down, both men were detained in a state-run guesthouse and their passports seized.

Anjarwalla escaped a month later, fleeing the country with a Kenyan passport concealed from state officials. He is now the subject of an Interpol red notice.

Nigerian prosecutors have slammed money laundering and tax violation charges against Gambaryan, Anjarwalla, and Binance.

Gambaryan has pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charge but is yet to enter a plea in the tax violation indictment.

Court proceedings will resume on June 14 with the tax violation arraignment and cross-examination in the money laundering case on June 20.

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.