Detained Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan collapses in court

Alex Omenye
Alex Omenye

In a dramatic moment at the Federal High Court in Abuja, detained Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan collapsed during his trial for foreign exchange contravention and money laundering, brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Gambaryan’s lawyer, Mark Mordi (SAN), informed the court that his client had been unwell since the previous trial date.

Earlier reports from Nairametrics detailed testimony from Abdulkadir Abbas, a director at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), who claimed that Binance’s Naira peer-to-peer (P2P) virtual feature had contributed to the devaluation of the Nigerian currency.

The Director of Exchanges and Market Infrastructure at SEC, Abbas, told Justice Emeka Nwite that Binance’s P2P feature and its large user base had negatively impacted the official exchange rate.

The Nigerian government has accused Binance and its executives, including the now-detained Gambaryan and the fugitive Nadeem Anjarwalla, of conspiring to conceal the origins of financial proceeds from alleged unlawful activities in Nigeria, amounting to $35.4 million.

These actions are alleged to violate Section 21(a) and are punishable under Section 18(3) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022.

The trial, which began last Friday after Gambaryan’s bail request was denied, saw a lawyer assisting Gambaryan to the dock. Despite this help, Gambaryan collapsed.

His lawyer, Mordi, presented a letter detailing his client’s health issues and requested an adjournment to allow for medical attention. EFCC counsel Ekele Iheanacho did not oppose the request. Consequently, the court adjourned the trial to June 20 and 21 for cross-examination and further proceedings.

The SEC, a federal agency responsible for registering capital market stakeholders, trading platforms, and enforcing market regulations, highlighted the adverse effects of Binance’s P2P trading on Nigeria’s official exchange rate.

Binance and its executives are currently facing two separate lawsuits from the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the EFCC, dealing with allegations of tax evasion and money laundering, respectively.

In response, the executives have filed a fundamental rights case against Nigerian government agencies, claiming a violation of their constitutional right to liberty.

Nairametrics recalls that on February 28, Nigerian authorities detained Gambaryan and Anjarwalla. Anjarwalla, a 37-year-old British-Kenyan, serves as Binance’s regional manager for Africa, while Gambaryan, a 39-year-old American, is the head of financial crime compliance at Binance.

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