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Binance Executive Pleads Not Guilty to Money Laundering Charges in Nigeria

Ruholamin Haqshanas
Last updated: | 2 min read
Binance Executive Pleads Not Guilty

Detained Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan has pleaded not guilty to four counts of money laundering charges in Nigeria. 

Gambaryan maintained his innocence during a courtroom hearing on April 8, as reported by local news agency Peoples Gazette.

In his defense, Gambaryan emphasized that he should not be held accountable for Binance’s activities in Nigeria, as he does not possess decision-making authority in the company’s business operations. 

His lawyer, Chukwuka Ikuazom, argued that Gambaryan could not enter a plea on behalf of his escaped colleague who was also served with charges.

Judge Rejects Gambaryan’s Defense Argument

However, Judge Emeka Nwite rejected Gambaryan’s defense argument and ruled that Gambaryan acted as Binance’s representative during previous trips to Nigeria, citing local laws. 

“A person who has no physical presence in Nigeria but has a physical agent in Nigeria can be duly served through that agent.”

As reported, Gambaryan’s case was adjourned until April 19, but according to recent reports, the hearing for bail consideration has been further adjourned to April 18. 

Some sources also indicate that hearings on the substantive charges will commence on May 2.

The report said that Judge Nwite ordered Gambaryan to be remanded at Kuje prison in Abuja until the conclusion of the case. 

Gambaryan’s attorney requested that the defendant be returned to the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). 

However, the EFCC’s counsel disputed the suggestion, stating that individuals accused of similar offenses are typically held at the Kuje facility pending the court’s decision.

Meanwhile, Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance’s Africa Regional Manager, managed to escape and flee Nigeria in March, while Gambaryan remains in custody.

The charges brought by the EFCC against Gambaryan and Anjarwalla are part of a broader investigation into Binance’s activities in Nigeria. 

Local authorities allege that Binance manipulated and devalued the Nigerian naira, the country’s fiat currency. 

Additionally, both Gambaryan and Anjarwalla face accusations of tax fraud.

Binance recently had to discontinue all services involving Nigerian local fiat currency, the Nigerian naira (NGN), after regulatory scrutiny. 

Earlier, the Nigerian government imposed a staggering $10 billion fine on Binance as part of a crackdown on the platform in an effort to stabilize the nation’s local currency. 

Binance’s Growing Regulatory Troubles 

Binance has faced increasing regulatory scrutiny worldwide.

Last year, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) filed charges against Binance for allegedly operating an illegal digital asset derivatives exchange and evading federal laws.

Similarly, the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged Binance Holdings LTD and ex-CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) for allegedly operating unregistered exchanges, broker exchanges, clearing houses, and the unregistered offer and sale of securities.

Binance and CZ pleaded guilty to a range of federal charges, including anti-money laundering violations and unlicensed money transmission, on November 21, 2023. 

CZ later resigned as the CEO of Binance, which was part of the agreement with the DOJ.

Last month, a group of investors who sought to sue the exchange, its former CEO Changpeng Zhao, and other executives were given a fresh chance to pursue their case.