JUST IN: Court remands Binance executive in Kuje prison over money laundering

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has remanded a Binance executive, Tigran Gambaryan, in Kuje Correctional Centre, pending the determination of his bail application.

The court also overruled the argument of Tigran Gambaryan who claimed he was not an agent of Binance Ltd.

Justice Emeka Nwite earlier, in the proceedings on Monday, ordered him to take his plea immediately, for himself and on behalf of Binance whom he represents in Nigeria, prior to commencement of trial.

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The court held that he should remain in prison till April 18, when his bail application will be determined, even as it slated May 2 for the commencement of hearing on the substantive charge against him.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had planned arraigning Binance Ltd, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla before the Federal High Court, Abuja in its suit marked FHC/ABJ/CR/138/2024, last week.

However, Anjarwalla, who is the Africa Regional Manager of Binance, escaped from custody and fled the country, with the government initiating the process to arrest and extradite him back for trial.

Despite the development, both the EFCC and the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, slammed separate criminal charges against the duo and the company.

Whereas the anti-graft agency is prosecuting the defendants over their alleged complicity in money laundering, the FIRS accused them of engaging in tax fraud.

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When the court resumed last Thursday, Gambaryan’s lawyer, Mark Mordi SAN contended that his client cannot take his plea because refused to accept service on behalf of Binance as he is not authorised to do so.

According to him, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act mandates the antigraft agency to ensure that the company (Binance) would have been served, then the company would appoint a representative in writing and it is only then can service and processes can be served on Binance.

He added, “his client is not an executive of Binance and does not reside in Nigeria to qualify as an agent.

He explained; “The first defendant(Binance) has no physical footprint in Nigeria and does not have an agent in the country. I urge my lord to discountenance the submission of the EFCC and adjourn so that they can effect service on Binance.

“But EFCC counsel, Ekene Iheanacho maintained that though there is no physical presence of Binance in Nigeria, Gambaryan is the cryptocurrency platform’s agent in the country. This defendant is the only agent of Binance in Nigeria and he qualifies to be an agent.”

In his ruling, Justice Emeka Nwite held on Monday that Section 478 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, states that a person effecting service shall effect same to a chief agent of a company within jurisdiction among others

He said all the prosecution needs to do is to establish that the person being served is an agent of Binance

The judge observed that Gambaryan’s lawyers had deposed in an affidavit along with Nadeem,that they “visited Nigeria for the purpose of attending a meeting with Nigerian government officials on behalf of Binance.”

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