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Nigeria scoffs at Binance's bribery allegations

By , Contributor
Nigeria , 09 May 2024
Binance executives (L) Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla (R).
Binance executives (L) Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla (R).

The schism between the Nigerian government and Binance has grown as a result of bribery claims made by the troubled cryptocurrency company against some government officials in West Africa.

This comes as Binance is under investigation in Nigeria for allegedly allowing its platform to be used for money laundering, terrorism financing, and illegal forex trading.

In a blog post, Binance CEO Richard Teng accused anonymous Nigerian officials of requesting a $150 million bitcoin bribe to end investigations.

The Ministry of Information and National Orientation dismissed the allegations as Binance's well-coordinated public relations operation to repair its tarnished reputation.

"This claim by the Binance CEO lacks any iota of substance," said Rabiu Ibrahim, special assistant to minister Alhaji Mohammed Idris.

"It is nothing but a diversionary tactic and an attempted act of blackmail by a company desperate to obfuscate the grievous criminal charges it is facing in Nigeria."

Ibrahim continued: "The phantom bribe claim is part of an orchestrated international campaign by this company that is facing criminal prosecution in many countries including the United States, to undermine the Nigerian government."

The ministry assistant pointed out that Changpeng Zhao, Binance's founder and former CEO, was sentenced to prison in the United States a week ago after pleading guilty to crimes similar to those being probed in Nigeria.

As a result, Ibrahim encouraged Binance to cooperate with Nigerian investigators and judicial authorities.

"We would like to remind Binance that it will not clear its name in Nigeria by resorting to fictional claims and mudslinging media campaigns," he said.

On February 26th, Nigerian police detained Binance executives Tigran Gambaryan (head of security and investigations for financial crime compliance) and Nadeem Anjarwalla (British-Kenyan citizen), the company's regional manager for East and West Africa.

Binance was forced to shut down last year after the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria labelled it an illegal cryptocurrency trading platform.

This year, the two were invited to attend meetings in the West African country, but they were later detained.

Anjarwalla escaped during Ramadan prayers and Binance is now calling for the release of Gambaryan, saying he is innocent.

Teng in a blogpost said: “Tigran has devoted his professional life to fighting financial crimes. He joined Binance after his time working for the U.S. IRS (Internal Revenue Services) as a Special Agent to continue the work he started.

“He recognised that he could do even more good working for the largest company in this nascent industry to keep out bad actors and uphold market integrity. Anyone who has left public service for a private organization can tell you that sometimes you can make an even greater positive impact working for a private company that has an extraordinary scale.”

Given this background, Teng added: “Tigran was hired in 2021 to help Binance develop and build stronger compliance controls, specific to law enforcement cooperation and stopping financial crime.

“As the head of Binance’s Financial Crime Compliance team, he has been a strong advocate for Binance to develop policies and build compliance capabilities that set new industry standards.

“In 2022 and 2023, Tigran’s Financial Crime Compliance team assisted global law enforcement in freezing and seizing more than $2.2B worth of assets, including more than $285M in cooperation with United States agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, and others.”

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