Binance CEO Calls For Colleague's Release Amid Standoff With Nigeria

Zinger Key Points
  • Teng slams Nigeria for detaining exec invited to talk regulation, raising concerns.
  • A report claims Gambaryan was asked for a $150 million bribe in crypto by Nigerian government officials.

Binance CEO Richard Teng on Tuesday called for the release of Tigran Gambaryan, head of the Financial Crime Compliance team at the crypto exchange, who has been detained in Nigeria since February.

What Happened: Teng’s demand highlights escalating tensions between the Nigerian government and the cryptocurrency exchange amid Nigeria’s deepening economic crisis.

Teng expressed his concerns in a recent blog post, stating, “As you may be aware, one of our beloved colleagues, Tigran Gambaryan, continues to be held by the government in Nigeria for more than 70 days.”

He criticized the Nigerian authorities for setting a “dangerous new precedent” by detaining a company's employee who was in the country to discuss regulatory issues.

“To invite a company’s mid-level employees for collaborative policy meetings, only to detain them, has set a dangerous new precedent for all companies worldwide,” Teng remarked.

The backdrop to this incident is Nigeria’s economic challenges, including a record low in the national currency and a 28-year high inflation rate of 33.2%.

Allegations by the Bank of Nigeria Governor Olayemi Cardoso have also surfaced, claiming that Binance facilitated the untraceable transfer of $26 billion out of the country, adversely affecting tax revenues.

Despite attempts to engage with Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission since 2022, Binance claims to have received no responses.

Also Read: Crypto Crackdown Coming? CFTC Chair Predicts Enforcement Surge

Why It Matters: Gambaryan, along with Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance’s regional manager for Africa, was detained after a meeting with high-level officials, including the CEO of the SEC, the deputy governor of the central bank, and the national security adviser.

Anjarwalla escaped custody in March, while Gambaryan now faces money laundering charges and is held in Kuje prison, awaiting a postponed bail hearing.

Further complicating matters, The New York Times reported that Gambaryan was asked for a $150 million bribe in cryptocurrency during a visit in January, a claim that has added layers of complexity to the situation.

“Our team grew increasingly concerned about their safety in Nigeria and immediately departed,” Teng wrote, indicating that the bribe was declined through legal counsel.

Amid these controversies, Nigeria has taken a firm stance against cryptocurrency, with plans to ban person-to-person (P2P) crypto trading in its national currency.

This decision, as announced by Emomotimi Agama, Director General of Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission, aims to curb what he described as manipulation within the P2P space.

What’s Next: As the global community watches these developments, the ongoing situation in Nigeria will likely be a topic of significant discussion at the upcoming Benzinga’s Future of Digital Assets event on Nov. 19.

Read Next: $130B Asset Manager Hightower Makes Splash With $68M Spot Bitcoin ETF Purchase

Image: Shutterstock

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