Nigerian Crisis Worsens As Binance Execs Remain Illegally Detained

According to a report by Wired on Mar 12, two high-ranking Binance officials, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, have been illegally detained by Nigerian authorities since Feb 26, even though the cryptocurrency exchange has recently exited the country. The unsettling situation in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, appears to be far from resolved, as the imprisoned individuals remain in custody at a government safe house overseen by the National Security Agency (NSA).

Gambaryan leads Binance’s criminal investigations team, and Anjarwalla, the regional manager for Africa based in Kenya, traveled to Nigeria on Feb 25 at the government’s invitation. Their families report that prosecutors have provided no criminal charges. “There’s no definite answer for anything: how he’s doing, what’s going to happen to him, when he’s coming back,” said Yuki Gambaryan, Tigran’s wife, expressing concerns over his wellbeing.

In a statement to Cointelegraph, a Binance spokesperson confirmed the two executives remain unjustly detained as of Mar 12, 2024. “While it is inappropriate for us to comment on the substance of the claims at this time, we can say that we are working collaboratively with Nigerian authorities to bring Nadeem and Tigran back home safely to their families,” the spokesperson stated. They stressed that both men are “professionals with the highest integrity” and expressed confidence in a swift resolution.

Binance Nigeria Exit Fallout

The detentions occurred after an unproductive meeting on Feb 26 where Nigerian officials discussed blocking access to Binance and other crypto exchanges, blaming them for devaluing the national currency naira and enabling “illicit flows” of funds. Family accounts confirm that instead of reaching any agreement, the two executives took them from the meeting to their hotels, seized their passports, and forcibly transported them to the NSA safehouse against their will.

While U.S. State Department and U.K. Foreign Office representatives visited Gambaryan and Anjarwalla, Nigerian government guards prevented private conversations during these consular meetings.

The illegal detentions occurred just days before Binance announced its exit from Nigeria on Mar 5. In the following days, the exchange suspended naira withdrawals on Mar 8. It removed all naira trading pairs by Mar 7 after turning off peer-to-peer trading for the Nigerian currency in late February.

Human rights advocates continue to condemn the Nigerian government’s unjustified actions as the situation remains unresolved over two weeks later. They are calling for the immediate release of the two Binance executives being held without due process.

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