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Nigeria sets dangerous precedent by detaining Binance execs, CEO says

THE CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Binance accused Nigeria of setting a dangerous precedent after its executives were invited to the African country and then detained as part of a crackdown on crypto.

Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange and two of its executives face separate trials on tax evasion and money laundering, which the company is challenging.

CEO Richard Teng said in a statement it was time to speak out against the detention of Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Binance head of financial crime compliance.

The other executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British Kenyan who is a regional manager for Africa, fled Nigeria in March.

Teng said Binance executives first held meetings with Nigerian authorities in the country in January.

At a follow-up meeting on Feb. 26, the authorities said the issues involving Binance were of national security and demanded that the exchange delist the naira currency from its platform and provide “granular-level” details on all Nigerian users, he said.

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

Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were subsequently detained.

“To invite a company’s mid-level employees for collaborative policy meetings, only to detain them, has set a dangerous new precedent for all companies worldwide,” Teng said, in his strongest comments yet since the case started in February.

Gambaryan was being held in Nigeria for more than two months “for spurious reasons,” Teng said.

Binance announced in early March it was stopping all transactions and trading in naira.

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“Our hope when we took this drastic step was that our colleagues would be released and Binance could continue to work with the Nigerian government to resolve any further concerns. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen,” said Ten.

He said Gambaryan should be allowed to go home while Binance and Nigerian authorities resolve any issues.

“We will continue engagement with Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) on resolving potential historic tax liabilities,” he said.