Binance working closely with Nigeria authorities to resolve exec's detention, CEO says

FILE PHOTO: Smartphone with displayed Binance logo is placed on keyboard in this illustration taken, November 8, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) - The CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Binance said on Thursday the company is working very closely with Nigerian authorities following the detention of its head of financial crime compliance.

A Nigerian court has adjourned until May 2 a case against the executive, Tigran Gambaryan, and another Binance official, who are accused of laundering more than $35 million, the country's anti-corruption body said on April 8.

"What I can say is we are working very closely with the Nigerian authorities to try to resolve the matter," CEO Richard Teng said, speaking about Gambaryan's case during the Token2049 crypto conference in Dubai.

The other executive Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan who is a regional manager for Africa, fled Nigeria last month.

Anjarwalla and Gambaryan flew to Nigeria following the country's decision to ban several cryptocurrency trading websites and were detained on arrival on Feb. 26 by Nigeria's anti-corruption body the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In addition to the case brought by the EFCC, Nigeria's tax agency, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), has charged Binance and the executives with tax evasion, a case that will appear before a court on Friday.

"This was a one-off. It's never happened to us before," Binance's head of regional markets Vishal Sacheendran told Reuters on the sidelines of the Dubai conference when asked about the detentions.

Sacheendran declined to comment on the charges against the company.

Binance on Thursday also announced it had secured a licence from Dubai's regulator VARA that will allow the platform, the world's biggest crypto currency exchange, to target retail clients in addition to qualified and institutional ones.

Earlier on Thursday, Bloomberg reported, citing sources, that steps needed by VARA to grant the license included Binance's founder and former CEO Changpeng Zhao having to cede voting control of the Dubai unit.

"That's pure speculation. Again, we don't comment on media speculation... Our relationship, our dealings with regulators are confidential," Teng told Reuters when asked about the report.

The European Union's securities watchdog said earlier this month that "crypto exchanges largely operate outside of national legal frameworks" and that "Binance, for example, claims to not have a headquarters."

Asked about the choice of its global headquarters, Teng told Reuters the company had picked a shortlist of potential locations, but declined to comment on specific places or a timeline for definitive decision.

(Reporting by Federico Maccioni; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton)

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