Binance: EFCC goes ahead with criminal charge against official

Binance senior executive Tigran Gambaryan

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has continued with its alleged money laundering charge preferred against Tigran Gambaryan, an executive of Binance Holdings Ltd at a Federal High Court, Abuja.

The criminal charge continued before Justice Emeka Nwite despite the withdrawal of a charge by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) against Gambaryan in the alleged tax evasion case filed against him and the cryptocurrency exchange platform.

While the EFCC filed a five-count charge against Binance and Gambaryan, FIRS filed a four-count charge against the duo.

The anti-graft agency had accused Binance and Gambaryan of money laundering involving $35.4 million.

Besides, the company was under suspicion of alleged terrorism financing.

Justice Nwite had, last Friday, discharged the detained Gambaryan and his fleeing colleague, Nadeem Anjarwalla, from the alleged tax evasion charge.

The judge decided in a short ruling following a fresh amended charge filed by the FIRS given a notice from Binance about appointing a Nigerian representative, Ayodele Omotilewa, to oversee its affairs in the country.

However, expectations were high before Thursday’s proceedings that the anti-graft agency would follow suit.

But at the resumed hearing, the EFCC’s lawyer informed the court that the matter was slated for the defence to cross-examine the agency’s first prosecution witness (PW1), Abdulkadir Abbas, a director with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Then Gambaryan stepped forward into the dock.

While being cross-examined by counsel for the first defendant (Binance), Babatunde Fagbohunlu, Abbas testified against Binance and Gambaryan.

The witness, a director of registration, Exchanges and Market Infrastructure Department at SEC, stated that a private company that wants to raise capital from the public in Nigeria, must become a public limited company (PLC) before it can engage in IPO (initial public offer).

He, however, said that Binance did not even register with his office in the first place.

He said the SEC’s regulations mandated it to oversight on all Bitcoin trading platforms under the Nigeria law.

Justice Nwite adjourned the matter until June 21 for the continuation of cross-examination.