Nigerian central bank alleges unauthorized transactions by Binance


The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has criticized Binance, the world-renowned cryptocurrency exchange, for performing banking services without proper authorization. 

According to local media, Dr. Olubukola Akinwunmi, Head of Payment Policy and Regulation at the CBN, testified before Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja, asserting that Binance’s deposit and withdrawal transactions should be reserved for banks and authorized financial institutions.

Unlicensed currency conversion allegations

The Nigerian government has accused Binance and its executives, Tigran Gambaryan and the fleeing Nadeem Anjarwalla, of conspiring to obscure the origins of $35,400,000 in financial proceeds from illegal activities in Nigeria

During the trial, Dr. Akinwunmi, led by EFCC counsel Ekele Iheanacho, stated that Binance’s website misled Nigerians into using its platform for naira transactions via a cash link. The platform promoted fee-free deposits and flat-fee withdrawals, activities regulated by the CBN and reserved for licensed banks and financial institutions.

Dr. Akinwunmi explained that Binance also facilitated currency conversion from naira to dollars, which requires CBN authorization as an authorized dealer or a Bureau de Change. He highlighted that traders on Binance often use pseudonyms, contravening laws requiring the disclosure of true identities in financial transactions.

Unauthorized P2P transactions

The witness detailed the peer-to-peer transaction process on Binance, where the buying party transfers naira to the selling party’s bank account and confirms the transaction on the platform, prompting Binance to release the cryptocurrency or fiat currency. Dr. Akinwunmi argued that this service is a regulated activity that Binance was not authorized to perform.

Related: Nigeria’s crypto reputation will prevail despite recent setbacks — Exchange exec

After Dr. Akinwunmi’s testimony, the court adjourned until July 16 for the defense’s cross-examination. Justice Nwite also ordered the Nigerian Correctional Services to produce Tigran Gambaryan’s medical reports, warning of consequences for noncompliance.

This crackdown on cryptocurrency activities follows the National Security Adviser’s classification of cryptocurrency trading as a national security issue. The CBN directed fintech startups Opay, Moniepoint, Paga, and Palmpay to block and report accounts engaging in cryptocurrency transactions.

In February, Binance disabled its peer-to-peer feature for Nigerian users due to government scrutiny. Additionally, during a virtual meeting with the Blockchain Industry Coordinating Committee of Nigeria (BICCoN), the SEC called for measures to delist the naira from P2P platforms to curb market manipulation and protect the integrity of Nigeria’s capital market.

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