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FG traces fleeing Binance executive to Kenya

The Federal Government has traced fleeing Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, to Kenya, following his escape from custody in Nigeria.

Following the development, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the International Criminal Police, the Nigeria Police Force and the Kenyan Police Service have deepened talks to quicken Anjarwalla’s extradition.

Sources in the Presidency who are on top of the case told Saturday PUNCH that Anjarwalla, whose cover has now been blown, went into hiding immediately after he landed in Kenya.

The source revealed, “We have found him. We know where he is. He is in Kenya, and we’re working with the authorities to bring him back to Nigeria.”

Another source also close to the matter, corroborated the first source’s statement.

The source noted, “All hands are on the deck. The government and all the security agencies are working hard in conjunction with the Kenyan authorities and INTERPOL, to ensure his return to Nigeria to face the charges brought against him.”

Meanwhile, the EFCC Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, had in the March edition of the agency’s bulletin titled, “EFCC Alert,” which was released last week, confirmed that the commission was working in conjunction with the International Criminal Police Organisation, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, the governments of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, and Kenya to extradite Anjarwalla.

Olukoyede noted, “The takeover of the prosecution of Binance chiefs by the commission is no less a strong message in the direction of EFCC’s resolve to hedge in distortions and disruptions in the country’s forex market.

“Tax evasion, currency speculation and money laundering to the tune of $35.4m  are at the foundation of the commission’s five-count charges against Binance Holdings Limited, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, the company’s chief executives.

“While Gambaryan is currently in the commission’s net, the process of extraditing the fleeing Anjarwalla is revving in full swing.

“Involved in partnership with the EFCC to nick Anjarwalla in flight are the International Criminal Police Organisation, the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation, the governments of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, and Kenya as the clock winds down to his arraignment in absentia alongside the company and Gambaryan.”

Saturday PUNCH had earlier reported that the Federal Government had commenced the extradition process of Anjarwalla back to Nigeria, over alleged $35,400,000 money laundering.

“Mr Anjarwalla’s extradition process has begun. The FG is working as did with INTERPOL to extradite the fugitive to Nigeria. He’s a fugitive that escaped from lawful custody, and his other partner is still in custody and would be arraigned on Thursday alongside their company, Binance,” a source had noted.

Another source revealed, “It is true that the FG has commenced the process of extraditing Binance’ Anjarwalla to bring him back to Nigeria to answer to his money laundering case in court, among others. The arraignment of Binance and Gambaryan in court on Thursday would also aid Anjarwalla’s extradition.”

Meanwhile, a top security source, working on the matter, confirmed to our correspondent that the soldiers detailed to monitor Anjarwalla were being grilled by special investigators drawn from the military, Department of State Services, Police, EFCC, and the National Intelligence Agency.

“The soldiers detailed to monitor Anjarwalla have been detained as you know, and they’re still being grilled by special investigators drawn from various security and intelligence agencies and services- the military, DSS, NIA, and the police, all hands are on deck, as it is a matter of national security,” the source stated.

The EFCC had on Thursday, April 4, arraigned Binance Holdings Limited and two of its senior executives, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla (now at large) on money laundering allegations.

The EFCC, which has now fully taken over the case from the Office of the National Security Adviser, has also detained Mr Gambaryan and has obtained a court warrant to arrest and extradite Mr Anjarwalla.

Confirming the development to our correspondent on Friday, impeccable sources noted that Mr Anjarwalla would be arraigned in absentia alongside Binance and Mr Gambaryan who’s now in EFCC custody.

“The detained Binance executive, Gambaryan is now in custody of the EFCC. The NSA has handed over the matter to the EFCC for investigation and prosecution. The commission has charged Binance, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla to court for $35,400,000 money laundering, and they’ll be arraigned in court on Thursday, April 4, 2024.” a source noted.

Another source revealed, “The EFCC is now partnering with the International Criminal Police Organisation, the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation, the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Kenyan government, to effect the arrest and extradition of Mr Anjarwalla, the fugitive who fled from lawful custody in Nigeria.”

The court documents exclusively obtained by Saturday PUNCH revealed that the charges were filed on Thursday, March 28, 2024, before the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Abuja division.

The charges read, “That you, Binance Holdings Limited (aka Binance) Tigran Gambaryan, and Nadeem Anjarwalla (now at large), between January 2023 and January 2024 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court carried on specialised business of other financial institution without valid licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 57 (1) and (2) of the Banks and Other Financial, Institutions Act, 2020 and punishable under section 57(5) of the same Act.

“Count two, that you, Binance Holdings Limited (aka Binance) Tigran Gambaryan, and Nadeem Anjarwalla (now at large), between January 2022 and January 2024 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court engaged in business of other financial institution (other than insurance, stock broking and pension fund management) without valid licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 58(5) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, 2020.

“Count three, that you, Binance Holdings Limited (aka Binance) between January 2022 and January 2024 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court not being an authorized dealer in Nigeria’s Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market used your virtual asset services platform to unlawfully negotiate foreign exchange rates in Nigeria and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 29(1) (c) of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring And Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.

“Count four, that you, Binance Holdings Limited (aka Binance), Tigran Gambaryan, Nadeem Anjarwalla (now at large), and other persons at large between January 2023 and January 2024 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to conceal the origin of the proceeds of your unlawful activities and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 21 (a) and punishable under section 18(3) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022.

“Count five, that you, Binance Holdings Limited (“aka Binance”) Tigran Gambaryan, and Nadeem Anjarwalla between January 2023 and December 2023 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court concealed the origin of a cumulative sum of $35,400,000 generated as revenue by Binance in Nigeria knowing that the funds constituted proceeds of unlawful activity and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 18 (3) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and prohibition) Act, 2022.”

Also on March 22, the Nigerian government approached the Federal High Court in Abuja and slammed another four-count charge on Binance Holdings Limited, Anjarwalla, and Gambaryan, accusing them of offering services to subscribers on their platform while failing to register with the Federal Inland Revenue Service to pay all relevant taxes administered by the service.

And in so doing, they committed an offence, contrary to and punishable under Section 8 of the Value Added Tax Act of 1993 (as Amended).

The defendants were also accused of offering taxable services to subscribers on their trading platform while failing to issue invoices to those subscribers to determine and pay their value-added taxes and, in so doing, committed an offence contrary to and punishable under S.29 of the Value Added Tax Act of 1993 (as amended).

Count three of the charges accused the three defendants of offering services to subscribers on their Binance trading platform for the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies and the remittance and transfer of those assets while failing to deduct the necessary Value Added Taxes arising from their operations and thereby committing an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 40 of the Federal Inland Revenue Service Establishment Act 2007 (as amended).

The last count of the charges wants the defendants punished for allegedly aiding and abetting subscribers on their Binance trading platform to unlawfully refuse to pay taxes or neglect to pay those taxes and, in so doing, committing an offence contrary to and punishable under the provisions of S.94 of the Companies Income Tax Act (as amended).

* FG crackdown

The Nigerian government had, in the past three months, been cracking down on suspected money launderers and terrorism financiers, some of whom it alleged were using the Binance platform for criminal activities

The Nigerian government said over $21.6bn was traded by Nigerians whose identities were concealed by Binance.

The government also claimed its investigations revealed that unscrupulous elements were using Binance for money laundering, terrorist financing, currency speculation, and market manipulation, distorting the Nigerian economy and weakening the naira against other currencies.

The detention of Binance officials in Nigeria began months after the crypto exchange platform pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $4.3bn to settle criminal money laundering charges levied by the United States Department of Justice.

Binance Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Changpeng Zhao, also known as CZ, pleaded guilty and agreed to resign.

His criminal trial has been postponed to April 30, 2024, by a United States court.

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