25th May 2024
Crime & Investigation News

EFCC Takes Over Binance Probe, Plans Fleeing Executive’s Extradition

EFCC Takes Over Binance Probe, Plans Fleeing Executive’s Extradition

The Economy and Financial Crimes Commission has charged Binance Holdings Limited and two of its senior executives, Tigran Gambaryan, and Nadeem Anjarwalla – who is on the run, with $35,400,000 money laundering.

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

The PUNCH can confirm that the anti-graft commission is 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 Anjarwalla, the fugitive who fled from lawful custody in Nigeria.

Following the takeover of the investigation into the alleged financial irregularities committed by Binance, the EFCC has filed five-count charges bordering on money laundering against the cryptocurrency giant and two of its executives, Anjarwalla and Gambaryan.

The court documents exclusively obtained by our correspondent 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 authorised 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) © of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring And Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.

“Count four, that you, Binance Holdings Limited (“aka Binance”) Tigran Gambaryan, and 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.”

Recall that the Federal Government, on Monday, contacted the International Criminal Police Organisation and issued an arrest warrant for the apprehension of one of the detained executives of a global crypto-currency firm, Binance, Nadeem Anjarwalla, who escaped from lawful custody on Friday.

The PUNCH had reported that it gathered from the Office of the National Security Adviser that Anjarwalla, a suspect in the probe into the activities of Binance in Nigeria, used a Kenyan passport to escape, while his colleague was still in custody.

The escapee Binance official, who has British and Kenyan nationalities, escaped from Abuja through a Middle East airliner, as his firm in Nigeria confirmed that Anjarwalla was no longer in the country, adding that the company would cooperate with security agencies.

The escape shocked security agencies, as they revealed that the fleeing executive was kept in a ‘safe house’ guarded by soldiers, adding that the security guards on duty had been detained.

The Office of the National Security Adviser had confirmed the escape of Anjarwalla in a statement issued in Abuja on Monday by the Head of its Strategic Communication, Zakari Mijinyawa, who stated that preliminary investigation showed that the escapee fled Nigeria using a smuggled international passport.

He noted that efforts were ongoing to arrest the suspect.

The statement read, “The Office of the National Security Adviser confirms that Nadeem Anjarwalla, a suspect in the ongoing criminal probe into the activities of Binance in Nigeria, has escaped from lawful custody on Friday, March 22, 2024.

 “Upon receiving this report, this office took immediate steps, in conjunction with relevant security agencies, Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, as well as the international community, to apprehend the suspect.

 “Security agencies are working with Interpol for an international arrest warrant on the suspect. Preliminary investigation shows that Mr Anjarwalla fled Nigeria using a smuggled passport.”

and have been questioning the Binance executives at the ‘safe house’ which is being guarded by the military.”

However, the Nigerian Immigrations Service and the Nigeria Police Force, have been silent on the development.

Anjarwalla, 38, escaped on Friday, March 22, 2024 from the Abuja guest house where he and his colleague were detained after guards on duty led him to a nearby mosque for prayers in the spirit of the ongoing Ramadan fast.

Authorities are also said to be working to unravel his intended destination in a bid to get him back into custody.

An Immigration official said the Binance executive fled Nigeria on a Kenyan passport. He, however, said authorities were trying to determine how he obtained the passport, given that he had no other travel document (apart from the British passport) on him when he was taken into custody.

Another source said the two officials were held at a “comfortable guest house” and allowed many rights, including the use of telephones, a privilege Anjarwalla is believed to have exploited to plot an escape.

Anjarwalla and Tigran Gambaryan, a US citizen overseeing financial crime compliance at the crypto exchange platform, were detained upon their arrival in Nigeria on February 26, 2024.

A criminal charge was filed against the two executives before a Magistrate Court in Abuja. On February 28, 2024, the court granted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission an order to remand the duo for 14 days.

The court also ordered Binance to provide the Nigerian government with the data/information of Nigerians trading on its platform.

Following Binance’s refusal to comply with the order, the court extended the remand of the officials for an additional 14 days to prevent them from tampering with evidence. The court then adjourned the case till April 4, 2024.

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).

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 US Department of Justice.

Binance founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao, also known as CZ, pleaded guilty and agreed to resign. His criminal trial has been postponed to April 30, 2024, by a US court.

– The PUNCH

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