Binance CEO says crypto payment was demanded to settle allegations in Nigeria

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May 7, 2024
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3 min read
Binance CEO, Richard Teng
  • Binance CEO Richard Teng has released a statement regarding the detention of exchange employee Tigran Gambaryan to "provide the facts so that the global community's perception may not be distorted unfairly." 
  • He stated that detaining employees during their visit in response to an invitation for collaborative policy meetings "has set a dangerous new precedent for all companies worldwide."
  • This comes after Binance requested that Gambaryan not be held accountable while discussions between the cryptocurrency exchange and the Nigerian government continue. 

He and his colleague Nadeem Anjarwalla were detained in an Abuja guest house in February 2024. Before this move, Gambaryan and several Binance team members visited Nigeria in January 2024 to meet with the House Committee on Financial Crimes (HCFC). 

Teng stated that the Committee emphasised the gravity of the situation and threatened arrest warrants for Binance's team and CEO, while confirming a public hearing on January 10 without providing specific allegations to the company.

The team at Binance asked for written responses rather than a public hearing, citing information gaps and security issues. However, as they left the venue, they were approached by unidentified individuals who suggested they pay to settle the allegations. 

Later, someone claiming to represent the committee summoned Binance's local counsel and demanded a significant cryptocurrency payment within 48 hours. New York Times put the figure at $150 million. The exchange declined this demand and outlined settlement conditions, including seeing the allegations, official written agreements signed by all parties, and employee protection from intimidation or harassment. 

In March, Nigeria's tax authority filed tax evasion charges against Binance, alleging that the exchange failed to register with the authorities for tax purposes. 

However, Teng has highlighted flaws in Nigeria's 2022 SEC regulations on digital assets, claiming they lacked clarity on key licencing requirements, making it nearly impossible for crypto exchanges to obtain permits and comply.

Moreover, he said the authority didn’t respond to Binance's request for practical guidance on the licencing process and offer. Consequently, “We will continue engagement with Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) on resolving potential historic tax liabilities.”

In April, the employees and Binance were charged with money laundering of over $35 million. Gambaryan, now held in a correctional centre in Abuja, pleaded not guilty to the charges. However, his colleague escaped detention and fled from Nigeria, and he is reportedly being spotted in Kenya with talks to extradite him.

Meanwhile, Gambaryan has applied for bail and is awaiting a ruling, scheduled for May 17, 2024. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stated that Gambaryan is a flight risk because his colleague fled custody.

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Commenting on Gambaryan's person, Teng described the reasons for his detention in Nigeria as bogus. 

Previously, Binance clarified that Gambaryan has no decision-making authority in the company and is "a strict law enforcement professional who is not part of Binance management." Thus, the CEO reiterated that "[Gambaryan] did not go to Nigeria as a decision-maker or negotiator. He was merely acting as a functional expert in financial crime and capacity building in policy discussions.”

What’s more, citing Gambaryan's April bail hearing, Teng stated that the EFCC prosecutor argued that Binance operates virtually, making him the only thing to hold. This, according to him, shows Nigeria's intent to detain an innocent employee and place him in a “dangerous prison” to exert control over Binance.


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