Binance execs detained in Nigerian capital despite country exit

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Despite Binance announcing its exit from Nigeria last week, two of its senior executives are reportedly still being detained in the country’s capital, Abuja.

Tigran Gambaryan, a former cryptocurrency-focused United States federal agent, and a second Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, have been held in Abuja without passports for two weeks, Wired reported on March 12.

Gambaryan, head of Binance’s criminal investigations team, and Anjarwalla, Binance Kenya-based regional manager for Africa, have been detained at a government property since Feb. 26, 2024.

According to Gambaryan and Anjarwalla’s families, Nigerian prosecutors have not provided information on whether the two face criminal charges.

“There’s no definite answer for anything: how he’s doing, what’s going to happen to him, when he’s coming back,” Gambaryan’s wife, Yuki Gambaryan, reportedly said.

A spokesperson for Binance confirmed to Cointelegraph that Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were still detained in Nigeria as of March 12, stating:

“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.”

The Binance representative stressed that both execs are “professionals with the highest integrity” and that the exchange is confident that there will be a swift resolution to this matter.

The first reports on the arrests of Gambaryan and Anjarwalla surfaced in late February, with the Financial Times reporting on the detentions without identifying them on Feb. 28.

Gambaryan at an event by Consensus. Source: WSJ

Gambaryan, a United States citizen, and Anjarwalla, a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and Kenya, reportedly arrived in Abuja on Feb. 25, according to their families. The execs came to Nigeria following the Nigerian government’s invitation to address the ongoing dispute with Binance regarding its allegedly unlawful operations there.

The execs reportedly met with Nigerian officials the next day, intending to discuss the government’s order to the country’s telecom providers to block access to Binance and other crypto exchanges. The officials blamed crypto exchanges for devaluing Nigeria’s official currency, the naira, and enabling “illicit flows” of funds.

But instead of finding common ground regarding the argument, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were taken to their hotels soon after the first meeting, ordered to pack their things and brought to a “guesthouse” run by Nigeria’s National Security Agency, according to their families. Officials also seized their passports and have since held the two men at the house against their will, it is alleged.

Related: Binance exit sparks fears and opportunities in Nigeria’s crypto community

According to Wired, Gambaryan has been visited by a U.S. State Department official and Anjarwalla by a representative of the U.K. Foreign Office. Nigerian government guards have remained present in those meetings, preventing them from speaking privately.

The arrests of Gambaryan and Anjarwalla came a few days before Binance officially announced its complete exit from Nigeria on March 5.

According to the company’s exit roadmap, Binance suspended naira withdrawals on March 8 and removed all trading pairs involving the naira on March 7. The platform also previously disabled peer-to-peer trading with the naira in late February.

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