Some, But Not All, Charges Dropped

Tax charges brought by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) of Nigeria against Binance executives Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, alongside Binance, three months ago have been dropped. While the case will still go ahead, only the exchange itself is left named as a defendant. However, both executives remain named as defendants in the money-laundering case brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Gambaryan, the only present defendant, is expected to be held 'responsible' for all.

Binance stated that it is relieved by the news and is "hopeful" that the EFCC will take similar steps.

Gambaryan's Poor Health Condition, Life at Risk

Gambaryan has remained in the local jail since April, reportedly in difficult conditions. At the end of May, he didn’t appear in the courtroom as expected but was brought in the next day in poor health. He eventually collapsed on the floor, and it was later revealed he had malaria. The trial was postponed until June 20, despite the defense's request to adjourn until mid-July. The judge ordered that he be sent to hospital and provided with proper healthcare, but till now, he has been refused adequate treatment and reportedly has pneumonia, according to his lawyers.

Public and Lawmakers Support, Possible U.S. Intervention

Binance has been trying to explain to the Nigerian authorities that Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, should not be detained. Its CEO, Richard Teng, has criticized the detention as unjust and called it a dangerous precedent for international businesses. He also accused the country of attempted extortion.

Gambaryan’s wife has launched a petition to bring him home to Georgia. She specifically outlined that the U.S. government is refraining from active help.

Last week, the U.S. Republican members of Congress accused Nigeria of taking Gambaryan hostage. They urged President Biden to help secure his release, outlining that he is a former well-respected IRS agent. No active steps have been taken, at least publicly, but there is speculation that the recent update in the charges brought by FIRS might be connected to the threat of intervention.

Story Background

The saga began in February when the Nigerian government started criticizing and then prosecuting cryptocurrency exchanges. The thrust of the accusations was the exchanges' supposed contribution to the devaluation of the local currency, the naira. The government specifically targeted Binance in its enforcement actions, as the exchange handled most of the operations and has been under investigation since at least the end of 2023. Despite Binance stopping all transactions and trading in local currency, the exchange still faces charges of tax evasion and money laundering. 

The two Binance representatives, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, arrived in Nigeria at the end of February to address the compliance issues and explore ways of further cooperation. However, they were immediately detained upon arrival. In May, local authorities announced that Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan might stand trial on behalf of the cryptocurrency exchange and his escaped colleague. Gambaryan pleaded not guilty to all charges, and his bail application was denied due to concerns about high flight risk. 

If Gambaryan recovers enough to be present in the courtroom, there should be an update on this story next week. We will closely Observe the story, hoping justice will prevail.

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