Escalating Tensions: Detained Binance Executive Fights Back, Sues Nigerian Authorities for Alleged Human Rights Violation

April 1, 2024

Two executives from the world’s leading crypto exchange platform by trading volume, invited to the table for talks by the Nigerian government to discuss issues related to the operation of Binance, were met not with open arms, but with detention upon arrival in February. Recently both initiated a formal legal challenge, alleging violations of their foundational rights by certain government officials. 

Binance’s Head of Financial Crime Compliance Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen, took decisive legal steps against Nigerian authorities. Represented by legal counsel from the Aluko and Oyebode Law Firm, Gambaryan filed a petition with the Federal High Court in Abuja to uphold his rights. Having spent over 30 days in custody, Gambaryan expressed his desire for the Nigerian government to issue a public apology. Additionally, he wanted a court-issued restraining order to prevent further detention.

Nadeem Anjarwalla, the Binance Africa Regional Manager, had previously pursued legal action independently by filing a separate suit before Justice Iyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja to enforce his rights. However, following his successful escape from Nigerian custody last week, his legal representatives reportedly opted to withdraw the lawsuit.

Both executives directed their legal actions toward the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), naming them as the primary and secondary respondents, respectively. The lawsuits specifically target Nuhu Ribadu, the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the EFCC, alleging infringements upon their fundamental rights, the Nigerian Observer reported.

During a hearing last Thursday, the agencies involved were notably absent, as reported by local media. Consequently, the proceedings were adjourned until April 8.

Binance and its executives are scheduled to face arraignment at a Federal High Court in Abuja on a four-count charge of tax evasion. The charges allege that Binance failed to register with pertinent local agencies and shirked tax responsibilities. Additionally, the Nigerian government accuses Binance of aiding users in evading tax payments. Binance also stands accused of failing to issue invoices for Value Added Tax (VAT) purposes and neglecting to deduct these tax payments from its users.

In February, both Gambaryan and Anjarwalla flew to Nigeria with the intention of negotiating after the country had decided to ban several crypto-trading websites. However, the negotiations never materialized as planned. Instead, both individuals were detained by the office of the country’s national security adviser and their passports were seized.

In response to the detention of the executives, Binance decided to suspend trading of the naira, the currency of Nigeria, against Bitcoin and Tether on its exchange platform.

Nigerian authorities have shifted their attention toward cryptocurrency websites following a swift devaluation of the naira, contributing to inflation soaring to nearly a three-decade high of 29.9 percent. These platforms have emerged as an alternative avenue for trading, playing a role in establishing an unofficial price for the Nigerian currency.

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