US Lawmakers Advocate for Release of Detained Binance Executive in Nigeria


Two U.S. lawmakers who recently visited Tigran Gambaryan, a Binance Holdings Ltd. executive jailed in Nigeria, have raised concerns about his deteriorating health. Representatives French Hill and Chrissy Houlahan have called on the American embassy to seek a humanitarian release for Gambaryan, even as he faces ongoing fraud charges in Nigeria.

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Hill and Houlahan, on a national-security visit to Nigeria, described Gambaryan’s detention as wrongful and urged for his immediate release. Gambaryan, who serves as Binance’s head of financial-crime compliance, has been held since February on charges including illegal operations, currency manipulation, and money laundering. He was moved to a prison in April.

Last week, Nigeria’s tax agency dropped tax fraud accusations against Gambaryan. However, a separate money-laundering case by the anti-graft agency resumed on Thursday in Abuja. In a video posted on social media, Hill reported that Gambaryan suffers from malaria and double pneumonia, and has lost significant weight. Houlahan emphasized their commitment to ensuring his safe return to the U.S.

In a June 4 letter to President Joe Biden, 16 Republican lawmakers, including Hill, accused Nigeria of holding Gambaryan hostage. Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, refuted these claims, stating that Gambaryan is in lawful detention with access to quality medical care.

The tension between Nigeria and Binance surfaced in February when Gambaryan and a colleague, who later escaped, were detained during a compliance-related visit. Binance claimed in May that Nigerian authorities requested a $150 million “secret” cryptocurrency payment to resolve its issues, a claim denied by Nigerian officials.

Gambaryan, a former U.S. Internal Revenue Service officer, was initially held at a guest house before being formally charged in April. He has since been detained at Kuje correctional center, a high-security prison.

Binance’s troubles in Nigeria stem from the government’s crackdown on cryptocurrency trading, which they blame for the naira’s significant depreciation. Nigerian central bank Governor Olayemi Cardoso mentioned Binance in a February press conference, citing $26 billion in “illicit flows” through the platform.

This case adds to Binance’s legal challenges, including a U.S. court order for its founder, Changpeng Zhao, to serve four months in prison for enabling cybercriminals and terrorist groups to trade on the platform.

Emman Tochi
Emman Tochi
Emma Tochi is Naija247news Media Northern Bureau Chief, he's based in FCT Abuja. He overseas the northern operations of this business media

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