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Nigeria Defends Prosecution of Binance Executive Amid US Lawmakers' Criticism

Nigeria defends the prosecution of Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan amid U.S. lawmakers' criticism, asserting adherence to legal procedures and diplomatic protocols.

The Nigerian Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, has asserted that the prosecution of Binance and its executive, Tigran Gambaryan, for alleged illegal cryptocurrency trading in Nigeria adheres to the country's legal procedures. This statement comes amid growing criticism from U.S. lawmakers urging the release of Gambaryan.

Minister Mohammed Idris emphasized that the legal proceedings against Binance and Gambaryan have followed due process at every stage. He expressed confidence in the strength of the evidence gathered by prosecutors, which forms the basis for the charges. Binance and Gambaryan will have the opportunity to defend themselves against the serious financial crime allegations in court, with the next hearing scheduled for June 20, 2024.

U.S. Lawmakers' Appeal

The minister's statement follows a recent appeal by 12 U.S. politicians to President Joe Biden. The lawmakers urged the U.S. government to use its hostage affairs unit to facilitate Gambaryan's release. They characterized the charges against him, including money laundering and tax evasion, as "baseless" and suggested that Nigerian authorities were using these charges as a coercion tactic to extort Binance.

Consular Access and Diplomatic Protocols

Minister Idris reassured that Binance had received appropriate consular access from the U.S. and that all actions taken were in accordance with standard diplomatic protocols and the rule of law. He noted that bail was denied due to Gambaryan's high flight risk, exacerbated by a co-defendant who fled the country illegally and is now subject to an Interpol arrest warrant.

Binance and its executives are entangled in two separate legal battles with Nigeria's Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The FIRS suit pertains to allegations of tax evasion, while the EFCC's case involves charges of money laundering and foreign exchange contraventions.

In February, Nigerian authorities arrested Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen, and Nadeem Anjarwalla on suspicion of money laundering and tax evasion. Anjarwalla subsequently evaded custody and fled to Kenya, leaving Gambaryan in the Kuje correctional center in Abuja. The arrests followed the Nigerian government's ban on cryptocurrency channels as part of a broader campaign to curb currency speculation. The court also mandated that Binance provide the Nigerian government with access to data and details of Nigerian traders using its platform.

Tensions and Ongoing Developments

The case against Binance and Gambaryan highlights the tension between Nigerian authorities and the global cryptocurrency exchange over regulatory compliance and financial crimes. The situation continues to unfold, with significant implications for Binance's operations in Nigeria and potentially other jurisdictions.