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Alleged $34.4m Fraud: Court Refuses Binance Executive Bail as EFCC Presents First Witness | Read More 

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Alleged $34.4m Fraud: Court Refuses Binance Executive Bail as EFCC Presents First Witness | Read More 

 

Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday 17, May 2024, threw out a bail application filed by Tigran Gambaryan, Binance executive and second defendant in an alleged tax evasion, currency speculation and money laundering case to the tune of $34,400,000 (Thirty-Four Million, Four Hundred Thousand United States Dollars).

 

Ruling on the bail application filed on April 8, 2024 by defence counsel, Mark Mordi (SAN), the judge held that the defendant had no respect for the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, adding that shortly after his arraignment on April 8, 2024, he hatched a plot to escape from lawful custody in similar fashion his partner and first defendant, Nadeem Anjarwalla escaped.

 

The judge further noted that both defendants shared the same space in detention before the escape of the first defendant and that some of his co-conspirators are in the United Kingdom as fugitives of the law.

“The application is thereby refused,” the judge said.

 

Continuing with the business of the day on Friday, prosecution counsel, Ekele Iheanacho got the permission of the court to present the First Prosecution Witness (PW1), Abdulqadir Abbas, director of operations with Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, to commence the examination-in-chief.

 

Led in evidence by Iheanacho, the witness disclosed that he met the first defendant for the first time in a meeting at the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).

 

“I met him once at the office of the National Security Adviser. It was a meeting convened by NSA to discuss the operations of the first defendant in Nigeria as it affects financial operations,” he said.

 

According to him, the first defendant is operating a platform which is not registered or regulated by the SEC which he said was in breach of the extant provision of Investment and Securities Act 2007. In addition to that is the making of public solicitation from Nigerians by the first defendant without authorization by the SEC which, he said was also an infraction.

 

“The first defendant was in the meeting to discuss his operation and its impact on the Nigerian economy. It was clearly observed that the first defendant’s mode of operation is against the provision of SEC Act 2007. Apart from not being registered, and making public solicitation without authorization, the first defendant operates a net Naira Peer to Peer, P2P, transaction in exchange for crypto access”.

 

“The P2P could not be deployed on a normal trading route. This is because the CBN had banned banks from providing settlement platforms for crypto exchanges. As a result of the Naira P2P deployed by the first defendant and coupled with the large number of Nigerian users deliberately on that model, it adversely affected the official exchange rate. As a matter of fact, the Binance platform became the reference point for determining exchange rate,” he said.

 

Responding to an enquiry of prosecution counsel on the relationship between the official exchange rate of the naira and the rate that obtained on Binance platform, the witness stated that “The rate reached a state where if one wants to exchange dollar, the Binance platform became the reference point. And that rate has no correlation or relationship with the official rate.”

 

The judge adjourned the matter till May 23, 2024 for cross-examination of the witness.

 

The EFCC is prosecuting the first and second defendants on a five-count charge, bordering on alleged tax evasion, currency speculation and money laundering to the tune of $34,400,000 (Thirty-Four Million, Four Hundred Thousand United States Dollars).

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