Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Detained Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan pleads not guilty to money laundering charges 

Mr Gambaryan pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charges the Nigerian government preferred against him.

• April 8, 2024
Tigran Gambaryan atFederal High Court Abuja
Tigran Gambaryan at Federal High Court Abuja [Credit: NAN]

On Monday, Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan pleaded not guilty to the money laundering charges the Nigerian government preferred against him at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.

Justice Emeka Nwite said Mr Gambaryan’s refusal to be served with Nadeem Anjarwalla’s — his escaped colleague— charges does not hold water. Mr Anjarwalla escaped from EFCC custody last month.

Mr Nwite’s opinion relied on a Nigerian law that permits the court to serve accused entities without a physical presence in Nigeria. 

Mr Nwite’s opinion relied on a Nigerian law that says accused persons or entities without physical presence in the country can be served through their representatives present in the country.

The judge said Mr Gambaryan and his colleague travelled to Nigeria to engage officials of the West African nation on Binance operations in the country, which meant that one of the two could pass as representative.

“A person who has no physical presence in Nigeria but has a physical agent in Nigeria can be duly served through that agent,” Mr Nwite said, citing section 123 (iv) of The Administration of Criminal Justice Act. Consequently, there cannot be a better service than service through the second defendant.”

When the laundering charges were read out, Mr Gambaryan pleaded not guilty to all four counts.

However, Mr Gambaryan’s attorney, Chukwuka Ikuazom, contested that his client, even though served with charges of his escaped colleague, could not enter a plea on his behalf.

The matter was adjourned until April 18 for further hearing.

Mr Ikuazom, who appeared frustrated with his client’s protracted detention, asked the court to return Mr Gambaryan to EFCC custody instead of letting him languish in Kuje prison.

But the counsel for the EFCC disputed the suggestion, saying that persons accused of similar offences as Mr Gambaryan are always sent to the Kuje facility pending the court’s decision. 

He argued that until another facility is built for similar offences, Mr Gambaryan would remain in Kuje.

Mr Nwite said Mr Ikuazom should have made a separate application requesting a change of facility for his client, as stipulated by the law.

The judge clarified that he was bound by law and, hence, could not grant a request that had not been formally made.

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