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Detained Binance executive escapes from custody in Nigeria

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One of the two Binance executives arrested in Nigeria for alleged tax evasion and other offenses, Mr Nadeem Anjarwalla has reportedly escaped from custody.

Premium Times reports that the 38 year old escaped on Friday, 22 March, 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.

The Briton, who also has Kenyan citizenship, is believed to have flown out of Abuja using a Middle East airliner.

Though, it remains unclear how Mr Anjarwalla boarded an international flight despite his British passport being confiscated by the Nigerian authorities after they were taken into custody.

Also, authorities are said to be working to unmask his intended destination in a bid to get him back into custody.

An Immigration official said the Binance executive escaped from 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.

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

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

Recall that following the free fall of Naira, President Bola Tinubu’s administration accused Binance of economic sabotage.

Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Information & Strategy, Bayo Onanuga while speaking during an interview on Channels Television, said that the cryptocurrency trading website, Binance will destroy Nigeria’s economy if it’s not clamped down.

Onanuga alleged that Binance is arbitrarily fixing the foreign exchange rate.

He said, “If we don’t clamp down on Binance, Binance will destroy the economy of this country. They just fix the rate. We have saboteurs. Look at what Binance is doing to our economy.

“That is why the government moved against Binance. Some people sit down using cyberspace to dictate even our exchange rate, hijacking the role of the CBN.

“They just sit down and fix anything they like. It’s a sabotage and we are trying to prevent that from happening henceforth.”

Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Olayemi Cardoso, cited Binance in a press conference. He expressed concerns over the illicit and suspicious financial flows through crypto platforms.

According to Cardoso, an alarming $26 billion has been transacted through Binance Nigeria in the past year. This has raised eyebrows over the sources and users involved in these transactions

However, a criminal charge was filed against the two executives before a Magistrate Court in Abuja. On 28 February 2024, the court granted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) 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 4 April 2024.

Also on 22 March, the Nigerian government approached the Federal High Court in Abuja and slammed another four-count charge on Binance Holdings Limited, Mr Anjarwalla and Mr 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, 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).

 

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