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Tax evasion: FIRS blames Nigeria Correctional Service for failing to produce Binance executive in court for arraignment

FIRS

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in Abuja has blamed operatives of the Nigerian Correctional Service for failing to produce Binance Limited executive, Tigran Gambaryan, to the Federal High Court Abuja to take his plea in its tax evasion charges.

Wednesday was scheduled for the arraignment of Binance and its executives but Gambaryan did not show up.

Counsel for the FIRS, Moses Idehu, told Justice Emeka Nwite that it was the responsibility of the prison service to bring the defendants to the court, not his.

Nairametrics previously reported that FIRS had filed legal proceedings against the cryptocurrency exchange platform alleging tax evasion.

The amended lawsuit pertains to Binance’s alleged failure to collect and remit various categories of taxes to the federation, particularly the Value Added Tax (VAT) and  Company Income tax (CIT), as stipulated by Section 40 of the FIRS Establishment Act 2007 as amended.

What transpired in court

Idehu sought for adjournment promising to find out why the correctional service could not produce the defendant, saying he had been trying to reach the detaining authority.

He said,

“He (Gambaryan) was supposed to have been produced from custody. Unfortunately, we don’t know why he is not here.

“It is their(Nigeria Correctional Service)responsibility to bring the defendant. They have him.

“We are definitely looking at possibly not being able to go on today. We shall take steps to communicate to the Nigerian Correctional Service to produce him on the next adjourned date.”

Counsel for Binance, T.J. Krukrubo SAN, protested the failure of the prosecution to produce his client.

Gambaryan’s lawyer, Chukwuka Ikwuazo (SAN),  seized the moment to tell the judge to direct FIRS to remove the name of co-defendant, Nadeem Anjarwalla, from the amended charge since he is declared to be “at large.”

FIRS’s lawyer agreed to do the needful in respect of Anjarwalla’s name on the charge sheet.

Following the agreement by the legal team on both sides, Justice Emeka Nwite further adjourned to June 14 for arraignment.

Backstory

The Federal Government had accused the cryptocurrency exchange of influencing foreign exchange (FX) rates, resulting in stricter oversight of crypto trading platforms.

The EFCC is separately prosecuting Binance and its executives over alleged money laundering and foreign exchange contravention.

On February 28, Nigerian authorities detained two senior Binance executives: Nadeem Anjarwalla, a 37-year-old British-Kenyan, who serves as the regional manager for Africa, and Tigran Gambaryan, a 39-year-old American, who is the head of financial crime compliance at Binance. They were held for several weeks.

Following the Federal Government’s ban on cryptocurrency channels as part of a campaign against currency speculation, the Binance executives visited Nigeria for a meeting.

The Naira has experienced a significant devaluation of its currency, with the local currency losing 70% of its value against the dollar since the foreign exchange reforms were implemented last year, a situation worsened by a shortage of dollars locally.

An official of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) had also accused Binance Naira P2P feature on its platform for destabilizing the country’s exchange rate.

Meanwhile, Binance spokesperson, Ivy Shirinda, told Nairametrics by mail that “we are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained. Tigran has been dedicated to public service and fighting crime for most of his life. These charges against him are completely meritless. He should be freed while discussions continue between Binance and Nigerian government officials.”


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