Lawmakers Accuse Nigeria of Unlawfully Detaining Binance Executive Tigran Gambaryan

News | June 14, 2024 By:

On Tuesday, June 4, 2024, sixteen Republican congressmen, led by Michael McCaul, called for President Joe Biden to intervene in the case of an American citizen detained in Nigeria. Tigran Gambaryan, the head of financial crime compliance at cryptocurrency exchange Binance, was arrested in April during a trip to Nigeria to discuss Binance’s compliance issues with local authorities.

In a letter to President Biden, the lawmakers accused Nigeria of unlawfully holding Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen, and urged the president to address his detention. They claimed the charges against Gambaryan are baseless and that Nigerian officials are coercing Binance by detaining its executive. Gambaryan faces allegations of tax evasion and aiding Binance customers in Nigeria to evade paying taxes.

However, Nigeria’s Information Minister Mohammed Idris rejected the accusations, maintaining that Gambaryan’s arrest and detention are lawful under Nigerian law. Idris said the charges stem from Gambaryan’s alleged role in Binance’s failure to pay value-added tax and corporate income tax in Nigeria. Binance is also accused of operating in Nigeria without proper licensing and facilitating over $35 million in alleged money laundering.

The confrontation began in February when Gambaryan and a colleague traveled to Nigeria for meetings with officials to discuss Binance’s compliance. However, the talks deteriorated and Gambaryan was detained while his colleague managed to leave the country. Gambaryan has been held at a maximum-security prison in Abuja since his formal arrest and charging in April. His health has reportedly declined, forcing a court hearing to be postponed recently.

The incident adds to mounting legal and regulatory troubles facing Binance globally. In the U.S., Binance founder Changpeng Zhao was sentenced to four months in prison for compliance failures at the exchange. Binance also agreed to a $4.3 billion settlement with U.S. authorities in November over allegations it enabled cybercrime and terrorism through lax controls.

Last month, a Nigerian court ruled Gambaryan must stand trial representing Binance over the tax evasion accusations. If convicted, he faces potential jail time in Nigeria.