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Binance exec’s wife calls his detention in Nigeria ‘’blackmail”

By , Africa editor
Nigeria , 02 Apr 2024
Binance executives detained in Nigeria, (L) Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla (R).
Binance executives detained in Nigeria, (L) Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla (R).

Yuki Gambaryan, wife of arrested Binance senior executive Tigran Gambaryan, alleges he is being held by Nigerian officials as a form of blackmail.

She urged a delegation led by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, which visited the West African country last week, to ask the Nigerian government to release her husband, an American citizen.

On Thursday, Booker (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (D-CA) led a congressional delegation to Nigeria to discuss democracy and freedom.

Yuki Gambaryan pleaded with the delegation to assist with the release of her husband, who has been held in Nigeria for more than a month.

"Simply put, my husband is being held as blackmail. As these Members of Congress are traveling across Nigeria, I am calling on them to push the Nigerians to release Tigran and continue their investigation through appropriate channels directly with Binance,” she said.

Yuki added: "For more than 30 days, the Nigerian government held my husband without charging him of any crime. Then they charged him with being responsible for the unsubstantiated actions of his employer, rather than having negotiations with the company in a manner in line with international norms.

"Tigran is renowned worldwide for his dedication to collaborating with governments and stakeholders to combat financial crimes. This is an issue that Nigeria should be discussing with the company's ownership and leadership.”

According to Yuki, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu last week said that his administration is “committed to deepening democracy by ensuring adherence to the rule of law and expediting the sustainable provision of good governance, justice, and fairness to all Nigerian citizens”.

In response to Cory's visit, the Nigerian Presidency announced on X (previously Twitter) that the US senator praised President Tinubu's leadership, but nothing was said about Binance's issue.

The Nigerian Presidency reported Cory as saying of Tinubu: "You are a leader of particular character. You have the courage to do very difficult things, right at the beginning of your term – something that many American leaders should look to; someone who believes so much in their people that they can make difficult decisions and know that their country is resilient and strong to endure so that it can emerge stronger on the other side."

Binance was forced to cease operations last year when the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria declared it an illegal cryptocurrency trading platform.

Gambaryan, Binance’s head of security and investigations for financial crime compliance, and his colleague Nadeem Anjarwalla (a British-Kenyan citizen), the company's regional manager for East and West Africa, were detained by Nigerian authorities on 26 February.

 This followed a series of meetings in Abuja to which the government had invited them.

Last week, Gambaryan’s colleague Anjarwalla escaped, as he reportedly took advantage of being allowed to observe Ramadan prayers and then fled.

The Nigerian intelligence authorities have since launched a manhunt for Anjarwalla.

The crux of Nigeria’s complaint with Binance centres around the company failing to register with the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigeria's tax collecting agency. According to the National Security Advisor’s office, this is prohibited under Section 8 of the Value Added Tax Act of 1993.

The development in Nigeria comes as Binance has been expanding its footprint on the continent.

The cryptocurrency provider has been broadening reach across Africa, adding support for more African countries – Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

This expansion is aimed at bolstering Binance’s presence on the continent, where cryptocurrencies have seen a lot of interest and adoption in recent years.

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