Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Tinubu’s government drops tax charges against Binance executive Gambaryan after U.S. lawmakers pressured Biden

President Bola Tinubu’s government has dropped tax charges against Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan held captive by the Nigerian authorities.

• June 14, 2024
American President Joe Biden and Nigerian President Bola Tinubu
American President Joe Biden and Nigerian President Bola Tinubu

President Bola Tinubu’s government has dropped tax charges against Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan held captive by the Nigerian authorities.

Specifically, the world’s largest cryptocurrency trade platform, Binance, said Friday that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) dropped tax charges against Mr Gambaryan.

This came barely a week after some U.S. lawmakers accused Mr Tinubu’s government of holding Mr Gambaryan hostage to extort his employer, pressuring U.S. President Joe Biden to intervene in the matter.

“We are relieved that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) have served and filed amended charges today, resulting in tax charges against Tigran Gambaryan being dropped, further illustrating that Tigran is not a decision-maker at Binance and does not need to be held in order for Binance to resolve issues with the Nigerian government,” a spokesperson for Binance said in a statement on Friday.

According to Binance, this was the latest development at the court hearing on June 14. 

It added that it would “await the court’s ruling on this, discharging Tigran from this matter completely,” while commending “the FIRS for their diligence and professionalism throughout this process.”

Meanwhile, Binance called on the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to also drop all charges against Mr Gambaryan and allow him to return to his family.

“In order for Tigran to be allowed to go home to his family, we are hopeful that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will take similar steps,” said the Binance spokesperson. “Tigran has been detained for 110 days, and his physical health is deteriorating, including a recent malaria and pneumonia diagnosis. Binance is committed to continuing to work with the Nigerian government to resolve this.”

In a letter to Mr Biden dated June 4, the lawmakers said the charges against Mr Gambaryan were baseless and constituted a coercion tactic by the Tinubu government to extort Binance.

However, Mr Tinubu’s government denied holding Mr Gambaryan hostage.

Accusing Binance of illegal operation in Nigeria, fuelling the country’s economic crisis, Nigerian minister of information Mohammed Idris said, “At all stages, due process has been followed, and prosecutors are confident of their case, based on the facts and evidence gathered.”

Mr Gambaryan and his colleague, Nadeem Anjarwalla, both flew into Nigeria in February for a meeting with National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, amid Nigeria’s clampdown on cryptocurrency platforms on claims that they aide currency speculators damaging the Nigerian naira.

Though Mr Anjarwalla, Binance’s Africa regional manager, escaped from the NSA custody on March 22 and fled the country, Mr Gambaryan has remained in custody facing trial over money laundering charges.

Since the Nigerian government commenced a clampdown on cryptocurrency, blocking Binance’s website to its Nigerian users, the crypto trading giant disabled its P2P function and exited the Nigerian market

Similarly, other cryptocurrency trading platforms, OKX and KuCoin, have disabled their P2P functions for Nigerian users and delisted naira on their platforms.

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