Binance caught in the middle of Nigeria’s crypto crackdown

  • Binance says it is working with Nigerian authorities for the release of two executives that were arrested in February
  • The two executives were looking to repeal a ban Binance is facing in the country.
  • Nigeria alleges that Binance had moved over $26 billion in untraceable funds through the country.

After two Binance employees were arrested in Nigeria in late February, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange is now trying to fix its relationship with government authorities in the West African nation.

The crypto exchange flew two of its executives to Nigeria in February in order to sort out a deal with the country’s government to repeal a wide-ranging ban on its website.

The pair, Tigran Gambrayan, an American citizen and Binance head of financial crime compliance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance’s Kenya-based regional manager for Africa, were ceased at the office of the National Security Advisor (NSA), according to TechCabal.

Nigeria’s Federal Government, infamous for resistance to innovative technologies like 5G despite the country’s reputation for being the tech capital of the continent, had renewed its scrutiny of cryptocurrencies following the collapse of the sovereign currency, the Naira.

Nigerians have been among the world’s leading crypto adopters in the face of the volatile Naira, and digital tokens soon became the go-to for many as well as foreign currencies like the US dollar.

The arrests came months after the government reversed a ban on the use of cryptocurrencies. The Nigerian Central Bank governer Olayemi Cardoso last month warned locally operating exchanges that the regulatory environment on the country would get stricter.

The Nigerian government alleges that Binance had moved around $26 billion worth of untraceable funds through the country.

“We are concerned that certain practices go on that indicate illicit flows going through a number of these entities and suspicious flows at best. In the case of Binance, in the last one year alone, $26 billion has passed through Binance Nigeria from sources and users who we cannot adequately identify,” Cardoso said, according to CoinDesk.

On Thursday, Binance released a statement explaining that it was committed to complying with government regulations and that it would cooperate with Nigeria authorities. Binance made it evident that it has a long track record of aiding the Federal Government with financial crimes like scams, fraud and money laundering.

It did not mention what the situation was regarding its two employees held by authorities. According to Reuters, Nigerian authorities have decided to extend the detention of the two executives. They have yet to actually be charged with a crime and are heading for a third week in custody.

Apparently, the two men were supposed to be kept for an initial 14 days for an investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to take place. The lawyers of the two executives say there is no reason for them to continue being detained.

“While it is inappropriate for us to comment on the substance of the claims at this time, we can say that we are working collaboratively with Nigerian authorities to bring Nadeem and Tigran back home safely to their families,” a Binance spokesperson told CoinDesk earlier this week.

“They are professionals with the highest integrity, and we will provide them all the support we can. We trust there will be a swift resolution to this matter.”

[Image – Photo by Kanchanara on Unsplash]


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