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Binance Executives Stripped of Passports, Held in Confinement by Nigerian Authorities for Two Weeks

For the past fortnight, Nigerian authorities have detained two senior executives from the cryptocurrency exchange Binance against their wishes.

Reportedly, Tigran Gambaryan, who heads Binance’s criminal investigations team, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance’s Africa regional manager stationed in Kenya, find themselves without passports and confined to government premises in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, as outlined in a Wired report.

The saga commenced on February 26 when Gambaryan and Anjarwalla journeyed to Abuja to address the ongoing rift between Binance and the Nigerian government. Initially, the government had instructed telecom companies to block access to Binance and other cryptocurrency exchanges, citing concerns about the depreciation of the national currency, the naira, and alleged facilitation of unauthorized financial flows.

After their initial meeting, however, the executives were escorted to their hotels only to be later relocated to a government-managed guesthouse under the supervision of Nigeria’s National Security Agency.

Families of Detained Binance Executives Remain Worried

The families of Gambaryan and Anjarwalla have voiced profound concern and frustration regarding the lack of clarity and uncertainty surrounding the situation.

Yuki Gambaryan, Gambaryan’s wife, expressed her distress to Wired, stating, “There’s no definite answer for anything: how he’s doing, what’s going to happen to him, when he’s coming back. And not knowing that is killing me.”

Despite visits from a US State Department official and a representative from the UK foreign office, the executives have been unable to communicate privately due to the presence of Nigerian government guards during these encounters.

Additionally, the families revealed that Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were briefly transferred to a local hospital when Anjarwalla fell ill, possibly due to malaria. However, they have since been returned to the government property where they are being detained.

When contacted for comment, Binance opted not to divulge specifics concerning the allegations or requests presented by the Nigerian government.

Nevertheless, a spokesperson affirmed that the company is actively cooperating with Nigerian authorities to ensure the safe repatriation of the detained executives.

The spokesperson highlighted the professionalism and integrity of Gambaryan and Anjarwalla, expressing optimism for a prompt and amicable resolution to the situation.

Gambaryan’s Reputation as Former US Federal Agent Didn’t Help

The detention of Gambaryan and Anjarwalla carries a poignant irony, especially considering Gambaryan’s background as a former US federal agent specializing in cryptocurrency-related investigations.

His recruitment by Binance was widely perceived as an endeavor to enhance compliance with regulations and foster closer collaboration with law enforcement agencies.

Before joining Binance, Gambaryan played pivotal roles in notable cases, including the probe into the Silk Road dark-web drug market and the dismantling of the Welcome to Video crypto-based child sexual abuse materials network.

Recently, Binance faced regulatory scrutiny compelling it to halt all services involving the Nigerian local fiat currency, the Nigerian naira (NGN). Last week, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange announced the suspension of NGN withdrawals post-March 8.

Earlier on, the Nigerian government levied a substantial $10 billion fine on Binance as part of a broader crackdown on the platform, aimed at stabilizing the nation’s local currency.

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Cryptocurrency is essentially virtual money that operates in a decentralized manner, not through a bank but directly on multiple independent computers.

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