Nigerian court adjourns Binance, executives' tax evasion trial to June 14

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 has adjourned a tax evasion case against Binance to next month for possible arraignment of the cryptocurrency exchange and two of its executives after a trial stalled on Wednesday, the judge said.

The matter stalled because authorities failed to bring Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Binance head of financial crime compliance, to court. No reason was given for Gambaryan's absence in court.

On Friday, an Abuja court ruled that Gambaryan could stand trial in the tax evasion case on behalf of Binance.

The CEO of Binance Richard Teng in May accused Nigeria of setting a dangerous precedent after its executives were invited to the country and then detained as part of a crackdown on crypto. The company is challenging the trials on charges of tax evasion and money laundering.

Binance and its executives Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan who is Binance's regional manager for Africa, face four counts of tax evasion, including failure to register with Nigeria's Federal Inland Revenue Service for tax purposes.

Anjarwalla escaped custody in March but is still listed on the case, without indicating he was 'at large' - a factor that could stall trial given that Nigerian law requires that parties must be served before the case can proceed, Gambaryan's lawyer Chukwuka Ikwuazom said.

The revenue service lawyer Moses Ideho said Gambaryan was supposed to have been produced in court by Nigeria's prison service and that he did not know why he was not in court.

Judge Emeka Nwite adjourned the possible arraignment of Binance and Gambaryan to June 14.

In addition to the tax evasion trial, Binance and the executives have also been charged with laundering more than $35 million by Nigeria's anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). A money laundering trial will be heard on Thursday.

Binance has said it is working closely with Nigerian authorities following the detention of Gambaryan.

(Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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