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## legal Troubles for Binance and Executives in Nigeria

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — In a significant legal development, Nigerian authorities have requested a trial for cryptocurrency exchange Binance and two of its executives on charges of alleged money laundering and tax evasion. This legal action comes after a thorough criminal investigation into the operations of the trading platform.

Only Tigran Gambaryan, an American citizen serving as Binance’s head of financial crime compliance, appeared at the court hearing. His colleague, Nadeem Anjarwalla, the company’s regional manager, is currently evading authorities after escaping custody in late March.

Nigeria boasts the largest crypto economy in Africa in terms of trade volume, with many citizens utilizing cryptocurrencies to safeguard their finances against skyrocketing inflation and the depreciating local currency. However, authorities have raised concerns about the platform being exploited for money laundering and terrorism financing activities.

In a separate set of charges filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency and the local tax authority have accused Binance and the two executives of operating without the necessary license, engaging in unlawful foreign exchange rate negotiations, avoiding taxes, and concealing the origin of illegal proceeds and revenue, totaling $35.4 million.

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Gambaryan received escort services from officials of the anti-corruption agency during his court appearance. The communication channel with Binance for comments on the situation remains inaccessible.

Since the arrests of Gambaryan and Anjarwalla on February 26, the trial has been marred by controversy as the defendants accused authorities of unlawfully detaining them and confiscating their passports. Additionally, reports from local media indicated that the Nigerian government demanded the identities of citizens engaged in trading on the platform.

The Abuja court has postponed the formal commencement of the money laundering trial until April 8 following arguments from Mark Mordi, Gambaryan’s legal representative, who contended that his client could not act on behalf of Binance without the company’s authorization, a stance disputed by the public prosecutor.

“There is evidence that the second defendant (Gambaryan) is a representative of the first defendant in this country (Binance),” stated Ekene Iheanacho, a lawyer representing Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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