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Binance executive reportedly escapes from custody in Nigeria

Amid the standoff between the Nigerian government and Binance, a cryptocurrency platform, one of the two executives detained over alleged tax evasion and other offences, Nadeem Anjarwalla, has reportedly escaped from custody in Nigeria.

Sources familiar with the matter disclosed this to Premium Times.

Anjarwalla reportedly escaped from custody on March 22, 2024, from the Abuja guest house, where he and his colleague, Tigran Gambaryan, were detained after guards on duty led him to a nearby mosque for prayers in the spirit of the ongoing Ramadan fast.

The Briton, who also has Kenyan citizenship, is believed to have flown out of Abuja using a Middle East airliner.

It remains unclear how Anjarwalla got on an international flight despite his British passport, with which he entered Nigeria, remaining in the custody of the Nigerian authorities.

Authorities are also said to be working to unravel his intended destination to get him back into custody.

An Immigration official said the Binance executive fled Nigeria on a Kenyan passport. He, however, said authorities were trying to determine how he obtained the passport, given that he had no other travel document (apart from the British passport) on him when he was taken into custody.

Another source said the two officials were held at a “comfortable guest house” and allowed many rights, including telephones, a privilege Anjarwalla is believed to have exploited to plot an escape.

Meanwhile, the Head of Strategic Communication at the Office of the National Security Adviser, Zakari Mijinyawa, has yet to react to the development.

Anjarwalla, Binance’s Africa regional manager, and Gambaryan, a US citizen overseeing financial crime compliance at the crypto exchange platform, were detained upon their arrival in Nigeria on February 26 2024, to negotiate with the government the firm’s restrictions.

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However, a criminal charge was filed against the two executives before a Magistrate Court in Abuja. On February 28 2024, the court granted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, an order to remand the duo for 14 days. The court also ordered Binance to provide the Nigerian government with data/information on Nigerians trading on its platform.

Following Binance’s refusal to comply with the order, the court extended the remand of the officials for an additional 14 days to prevent them from tampering with evidence. The court then adjourned the case till April 4 2024.

Also, on March 22, the Nigerian government approached the Federal High Court in Abuja. It slammed another four-count charge on Binance Holdings Limited, Mr Anjarwalla and Mr Gambaryan, accusing them of offering services to subscribers on their platform while failing to register with the Federal Inland Revenue Service to pay all relevant taxes administered by the Service and in so doing, committed an offence, contrary to and punishable under Section 8 of the Value Added Tax Act of 1993 (as Amended).

The defendants were also accused of offering taxable services to subscribers on their trading platform while failing to issue invoices to those subscribers to determine and pay their value-added taxes and, in so doing, committed an offence contrary to and punishable under S.29 of the Value Added Tax Act of 1993 (as amended).

The two Binance executives were detained by the office of the National Security Adviser from February 2024.

Recall that trouble started for Binance when it was restricted from operating in the Nigerian cyberspace from February 21, 2024.

The development led to Binance discontinuing its services on Naira from March 8.

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