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Binance’s Top Crime Investigator Detained in Nigeria

Tigran Gambaryan, a former crypto-focused US federal agent, and a second Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, have been held in Abuja without passports for two weeks.

Tigran Gambaryan made significant contributions as a federal agent in the United States, leading crucial investigations that resulted in the capture of cryptocurrency criminals, dark-web narcotics vendors, and networks supporting child exploitation funded through crypto. After leaving his government role, Gambaryan joined the prestigious cryptocurrency exchange Binance, but he is currently facing a different kind of crypto-related crackdown in Nigeria. Gambaryan and another Binance executive have been held against their will by Nigerian authorities for the past two weeks.

Since the 26th of February, Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla — the regional manager for Africa based in Kenya — have been held at a government facility in Abuja, Nigeria, without their passports. They have not been formally charged or informed of any criminal allegations against them, according to their relatives.

It appears their detention is part of Nigeria’s sweeping measures to prohibit cryptocurrency exchanges amidst a significant devaluation of the Nigerian currency, as initially reported by the Financial Times, which covered their detention without naming the executives.

Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen, and Anjarwalla, who holds dual citizenship in the UK and Kenya, traveled to Abuja at the invitation of the Nigerian government to discuss the ban on Binance and other cryptocurrency exchanges. The ban was imposed due to allegations that these exchanges were involved in the devaluation of the Nigerian naira and facilitating illegal financial activities.

After an initial meeting with Nigerian officials, they were taken from their hotels, asked to pack their belongings, and moved to a “guesthouse” overseen by Nigeria’s National Security Agency, where they are currently being held.

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Both Gambaryan and Anjarwalla have been visited by representatives from the U.S. State Department and the UK foreign office, respectively, but their conversations were monitored by Nigerian guards, preventing any private discussions. Binance has chosen not to comment on the specific accusations or demands made by the Nigerian government for their release, highlighting their cooperation with Nigerian authorities to ensure the safe return of the executives.

Gambaryan’s recruitment by Binance in 2021 was aimed at strengthening the exchange’s compliance with regulations and its cooperation with law enforcement, leveraging his experience in cryptocurrency investigations with the IRS Criminal Investigation division. His work included leading notable cases against corrupt government agents, recovering stolen Bitcoin, and dismantling criminal networks financed through cryptocurrency.

This development follows Binance’s recent decision to halt its cryptocurrency services in Nigeria. This is not the first instance of local authorities pressuring the crypto industry, as a previous ban was lifted by the Central Bank of Nigeria at the end of 2023.

Source: WIRED

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