Nigeria court rules Binance executive can face trial on behalf of crypto exchange


FILE PHOTO: Tigran Gambaryan, an executive of Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, sits as he waits to face prosecution for tax evasion and money laundering at the federal high court in Abuja, Nigeria April 4, 2024. REUTERS/ Abraham Achirga/File Photo

ABUJA (Reuters) - A Nigerian court on Friday ruled that Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan can stand trial on behalf of the cryptocurrency exchange in an ongoing tax evasion case.

Binance and executives Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and head of financial crimes compliance, and British-Kenyan national Nadeem Anjarwalla, a regional manager for Africa, face four counts of tax evasion.

In a separate case, they have also been charged with laundering more than $35 million and engaging in specialised financial activities without a licence. They have all pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charges.

Binance's lawyer declined to comment after Friday's court hearing. Gambaryan's lawyer also had no comment.

Gambaryan remains in custody while Anjarwalla fled the country in March. Nigeria's security adviser's office has said it is working with Interpol to seek Anjarwalla's arrest.

The CEO of Binance has accused Nigeria of setting a dangerous precedent after its executives were invited to the African country in February for talks with authorities and then detained as part of a crackdown on crypto.

Binance itself has not been charged in the tax evasion case by Nigeria's Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which has said Gambaryan could face the charges on the exchange's behalf.

Gambaryan's lawyer has previously said Gambaryan was "neither a director, partner nor company secretary" and had no written instructions from Binance to face the charges on its behalf.

Judge Emeka Nwite ruled on Friday that Gambaryan should be served with the charges against Binance because he is the chief financial compliance officer of Binance and he was duly appointed to represent it in a meeting in Nigeria.

Gambaryan will be arraigned in court on Wednesday to take a plea on behalf of Binance.

Gambaryan's bail application in relation to the money laundering case was denied on Friday.

Nigeria has blamed Binance for its currency woes after cryptocurrency websites emerged as platforms of choice for trading the Nigerian naira currency, as the country grappled with chronic dollar shortages.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Elisha Bala-Gbogbo. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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