Binance chief, others charged with money laundering

The Federal High Court in Abuja has scheduled the arraignment of Binance Holdings Limited and two of its officials – Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla – for tomorrow.

The firm, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla, who escaped from lawful custody on March 22, will be arraigned before Justice Emeka Nwite on two separate charges.

The one filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), bordering money laundering, has five counts.

The other, by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), has four counts, in which they were accused of sundry tax infractions.

The Nation learnt that Anjarwalla will be arraigned in absentia.

In the charge by the EFCC, filed on March 28, the defendants are accused, among others, of laundering about $35,400,000.

In count one of the charges, the defendants are alleged to have, between January 2023 and January 2024 in Abuja, carried out the specialised business of other financial institutions without a valid licence.

The EFCC said the act constitutes an offence contrary to Section 57(1) and (2) of the Banks and Other Financial, Institutions Act (BOFIA) 2020 and punishable under Section 57(5) of the same Act.

In the charge by the FIRS, marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/115/2024 filed on March 22, the defendants were alleged to have committed the offence on or about February 1 this year.

In count one, the defendants are accused of failing to register with the FIRS to pay all relevant taxes while carrying out and offering services to subscribers on their platform (Binance).

The FIRS said the act constitutes an offence punishable under Sections 8 and 29 of the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act of 1993 (as Amended), Section 40 of the FIRS Establishment Act, 2007 (as amended) and under provisions of Section 94 of the Companies Income Tax Act (as amended).

Justice Nwite had, on March 18, ordered Binance to provide the EFCC with a comprehensive data or information of all those trading on its platform from Nigeria.

The judge granted the interim order in a ruling on an ex-parte motion filed by EFCC’s lawyer, Ekele Iheanacho.

The judge said the interim order was to enable the EFCC investigate its claim that money laundering and terrorism financing activities were being allowed on Binance’s platform.

The EFCC had, in a supporting affidavit, claimed to have uncovered users who had been deploying the platform for price discovery, confirmation and market manipulation.

It said this had caused tremendous distortions in the market, resulting in the Naira losing its value against other currencies.

The commission added that information made available to its investigators by Binance revealed that total trading volume from Nigeria alone stood at $21.6 billion in 2023.

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