Binance CEO Demands Release of Employee Detained in Nigeria

Binance CEO Richard Teng has demanded the release of the exchange’s executive Tigran Gambaryan from detention in Nigeria, where he has been held for more than 70 days.

In a blog post, Teng said that Gambaryan’s detention “has set a dangerous new precedent for all companies worldwide,” adding that he “is innocent and must be released.”

Gambaryan, the exchange’s Head of Financial Crime Compliance, was detained in February by Nigerian authorities alongside his colleague, Binance’s regional manager for Africa Nadeem Anjarwalla. The pair had traveled to the country to liaise with officials as they conducted an investigation into crypto exchanges.

Both Binance execs were initially held without charge under the terms of a court order, before Anjarwalla escaped what Teng characterized as “unlawful detention”. The pair, along with the exchange, were subsequently charged with tax evasion by Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), while Gambaryan was transferred to a jail run by the country’s anti-corruption agency.

According to local media, Nigeria is seeking the extradition of Anjarwalla; a spokesperson for his wife subsequently claimed that reports of his arrest in Kenya are false.

In his blog post, Teng emphasized that Gambaryan was visiting Nigeria as a “functional expert in financial crime and capacity building in policy discussions,” and did not go to the country as a “‘decision-maker,’ nor a “negotiator.’

The Binance CEO also published a detailed breakdown of the exchange’s activities in Nigeria over the past two years, and its negotiations with Nigerian lawmakers and regulators.

Nigeria is currently undergoing a currency crisis, which Teng claims had been attributed by local authorities to Binance’s activities in the country.

As well as pushing back against those claims, he alleged that Gambaryan, an “innocent, mid-level employee,” is being held in “a dangerous prison in order to control Binance.” Gambaryan has sued the Nigerian government for violating his fundamental human rights.

Teng claimed that Gambaryan and Anjarwalla had “received multiple assurances that they would be granted safe passage for their meetings,” and that in the course of a “hostile” meeting, members of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) demanded that the exchange delist the Nigerian naira from its platform and “provide granular-level detail on all Nigerian users.”

Following their detention, Teng said, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were subject to “aggressive behavior” and were personally accused of “holding responsibility for the state of the naira and the overall economy,” as well as allegations of terrorist financing and money laundering.

Decrypt has reached out to the EFCC for comment and will update this article should they respond.

As a “good faith gesture,” Teng stated that Binance had delisted the naira and disabled its P2P product for Nigerian users, and urged the country’s authorities to release Gambaryan and continue its “engagement” with the exchange over tax liabilities and cooperation with law enforcement.

I hope that my next update is one where our employees are safe at home with their families,” Teng added.

Edited by Stacy Elliott.

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