Binance crypto compliance officer charged in Nigeria


Towards the end of February this year, Tigran Gambaryan, a top compliance officer at the world-renowned cryptocurrency exchange Binance, embarked on what was supposed to be a brief two-day business trip to Nigeria. Little did he know, this journey would take an unexpected turn, leading to his prolonged stay in a Nigerian prison.

Gambaryan, a former U.S. law enforcement agent, was no stranger to the risks associated with his line of work. Aware of the potential dangers, he had previously evacuated Nigeria with his colleagues due to fears of detainment by local authorities. Despite the risks, Gambaryan reassured his wife that this trip would be different – he would “get in and get out.”

However, the reality proved to be starkly different. A month and a half later, Gambaryan found himself confined within the walls of Kuje prison in Abuja, Nigeria, a facility notorious for housing members of extremist groups like Islamic State and Boko Haram.

The ordeal began on 26 February, when Gambaryan and his Binance colleague, Nadeem Anjarwalla, were taken into custody by Nigerian security officials following a meeting with government representatives. The two were held in a guesthouse under the control of these officials for nearly a month, with no formal charges brought against them.

The situation took a dramatic turn when Anjarwalla, Binance’s regional manager for Africa, managed to escape under mysterious circumstances. Reports suggest that he fled Nigeria after being allowed to leave the guesthouse for Ramadan prayers.

Unforseen consequences

In the wake of Anjarwalla’s escape, the Nigerian government leveled charges of tax evasion and money laundering against Gambaryan, Anjarwalla, and Binance. This move effectively accused the company and its two employees of committing the same crimes.

Binance, in an official statement dated 3 April, denied that Gambaryan held any “decision-making power” within the company. The company argued that he should not be held responsible while discussions between Binance and Nigerian government officials were ongoing.

This incident marks the latest in a series of legal troubles for Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange. The company is currently in the process of rebuilding its reputation after agreeing to pay $4.3 billion in penalties last year to settle charges by several U.S. agencies. The charges alleged that Binance violated economic sanctions against Syria, Cuba, and Iran, and facilitated criminal activity on its platform.

Gambaryan’s predicament underscores the challenges faced by the crypto industry in navigating the complex landscape of global law enforcement. Despite its origins in technology designed to bypass the traditional financial system, the industry continues to grapple with staying on the right side of the law in countries worldwide. This struggle is exemplified by the recent legal issues faced by Binance and its founder, Changpeng Zhao.