25 March 2024

Binance executive detained in Nigeria amid crypto crackdown escapes custody

25 March 2024

An executive of cryptocurrency exchange Binance has escaped custody in Nigeria, where a criminal investigation has been launched against the platform accused of being used for money laundering, authorities said.

Nadeem Anjarwalla, the regional manager for Binance in Africa, “fled Nigeria using a smuggled passport”, the office of Nigeria’s National Security Adviser said in a statement, calling for “whatever information that can assist law enforcement agencies to apprehend the suspect”.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest crypto economy in terms of trade volume, with many citizens using crypto to hedge their finances against surging inflation and the declining local currency.

Anjarwalla, who holds dual British and Kenyan citizenship, had been detained in Nigeria along with another colleague since February 26 when they arrived in the country following a crackdown on the crypto platform.

Tigran Gambaryan, the colleague who is an American citizen, remains in captivity.

Binance stopped all trading with the Nigerian naira currency on its platform in early March after authorities accused it of being used for money laundering and terrorism financing — without providing evidence publicly.

It was not clear how Anjarwalla fled custody. The Abuja-based Premium Times newspaper, which broke the news of his escape, reported that he fled from a guest house in the capital city after guards led him to a nearby mosque for prayers.

“The personnel responsible for the custody of the suspect have been arrested, and a thorough investigation is ongoing to unravel the circumstances that led to his escape from lawful detention,” Zakari Mijinyawa, spokesman for the office of Nigeria’s National Security Adviser said in a statement.

The Binance executives were being detained on court order and are due to appear in court on April 4, the statement said.

Nigeria’s tax agency, meanwhile, filed a four-count charge on tax evasion against the crypto exchange, accusing it also of “complicity in aiding customers to evade taxes through its platform”.

“The charges further detail specific instances where Binance purportedly violated tax laws, such as failing to issue invoices for VAT purposes, thus obstructing the determination and payment of taxes by subscribers,” the local Federal Inland Revenue Service said in a statement.

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