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EFCC arraigns Binance top officials in Abuja

Count one accused the defendants between January 2023 and January 2024 in Abuja of carrying on specialised business of other financial institution without valid licence

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Thursday, arraigns Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, two top officials of Binance Holdings Ltd on five counts charge of money laundering.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reliably gathered on Tuesday that Binance, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla, who escaped from lawful custody on March 22 and fled Nigeria, will be arraigned before Justice Emeka Nwite of a Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja.

Although the crypto exchange firm, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla are listed as first to third defendants respectively, Anjarwalla, who is described to be “at large” by the EFCC in the counts, is expected to be arraigned in absentia.

In the charge dated and filed on March 28 by the anti-graft agency, the defendants are being accused of money laundering to the tune of $35,400,000.

Count one accused the defendants between January 2023 and January 2024 in Abuja of carrying on specialised business of other financial institution without valid licence.

The offence is said to be contrary to Section 57(1) and (2) of the Banks and Other Financial, Institutions Act, 2020 and punishable under Section 57(5) of the same Act.

NAN had, on March 28, also reported that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) will, on April 4, arraigned Binance Holdings Limited, Mr Gambaryan and fleeing Mr Anjarwalla, on allegations of tax evasion.

In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/115/2024, the three defendants will equally be arraigned before Justice Nwite on four counts.

NAN reports that though the Federal High Court’s Easter vacation, which began on March 22, will end on April 8, the Chief Judge of the court, Justice John Tsoho, directed the transfer of the Binance case file to Justice Nwite, even though he is not a vacation judge.

The chief judge granted the fiat for the judge to handle the case during vacation being a matter that concerns dire national interest.

In the charge dated and filed March 22 by the FIRS, the defendants were alleged to have committed the offence on or about 1 February.

Count one alleged that while involved in carrying and offering services to subscribers on their platform, known as Binance, the defendants failed to register with the FIRS, for the purpose of paying all relevant taxes administered by the service.

The offences are said to be punishable under Sections 8 and 29 of the VAT Act of 1993 (as Amended), Section 40 of the FIRS Establishment Act, 2007 (as amended) and under provisions of Section 94 of the Companies Income Tax Act (as amended) respectively.

The two cases are now fixed for Thursday to allow for accelerated hearing.

NAN had, on March 18, reported that Justice Nwite ordered Binance Holdings Limited to provide the EFCC with the comprehensive data or information of all persons from Nigeria trading on its platform.

The judge granted the interim order after ruling on the ex-parte motion moved by the EFCC’s lawyer, Ekele Iheanacho.

The interim order was granted to enable the anti-graft agency unravel the alleged money laundering and terrorism financing on Binance platform.

The commission said it uncovered users using the platform for price discovery, confirmation and market manipulation, causing tremendous distortions in the market, resulting in the Naira losing its values against other currencies.

The EFCC said from the information obtained by its team of Investigators, Binance’s total trading volume from Nigeria in 2023 alone stood at 21.6 billion dollars .


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