April 22, 2024

Binance Executives Detained in Nigeria Amid Cryptocurrency Crackdown

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In a surprising turn of events, Tigran Gambaryan, leader of Binance’s criminal investigations team, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance’s Kenya-based regional manager for Africa, have been detained by Nigerian officials for the past two weeks. The executives have been stripped of their passports and held against their will in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, with no information on any criminal charges filed against them.

The detention follows the Nigerian government’s decision to ban cryptocurrency exchanges, including Binance, amid concerns about the devaluation of the national currency, the naira, and the facilitation of “illicit flows” of funds. Gambaryan and Anjarwalla had arrived in Abuja on February 25, responding to the Nigerian government’s invitation to address the ongoing dispute with Binance.

The executives intended to discuss the government’s order to block access to Binance and other exchanges with Nigerian officials. However, after their initial meeting, they were taken to their hotels, asked to pack, and moved to a government property, where they have been held against their will. Their passports were seized, and no criminal charges have been communicated to them.

Gambaryan, known for leading landmark investigations against cryptocurrency-related crimes during his tenure as a US federal agent, now finds himself entangled in a dispute between Binance and the Nigerian government. Binance had recruited him to head their investigations team in 2021, aiming to enhance compliance with regulations and cooperate more closely with law enforcement.

The families of the detained executives express deep concern over the lack of clarity surrounding the situation. Both Gambaryan and Anjarwalla have been visited by officials from the US State Department and the UK foreign office, respectively. However, Nigerian government guards have been present during these meetings, preventing private discussions.

While the exact reasons for their detention remain unclear, it appears to be linked to Nigeria’s broader actions against cryptocurrency exchanges. Gambaryan’s wife, Yuki, has urged the US government to support her husband, citing his significant contributions to high-impact cryptocurrency cases during his years at the US Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigations division.

The families express frustration over the lack of information and worry about the well-being of the detained executives. Anjarwalla’s wife, Elahe, highlights the personal toll, noting that he is being held during Ramadan, and their infant son has reached significant milestones in the past two weeks.

The ongoing uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the situation make it a challenging period for the families, who appeal for swift resolution and the safe return of the detained Binance executives.

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