Binance CEO: Nigerian officials suggested secret crypto deal

Teng calls for public hearing to address allegations. Binance seeks written response to allegations. CEO alleges cryptocurrency payment proposal.

May 7, 2024 - 16:37
May 7, 2024 - 13:10
Binance CEO: Nigerian officials suggested secret crypto deal
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Binance CEO Richard Teng criticized the Nigerian government for setting a troubling precedent by summoning company executives to meetings before detaining them. Reports suggest Nigerian officials attempted to pressure Binance representatives into a confidential settlement in cryptocurrency during meetings in early 2024.

Teng provided an account of the detention of Tigran Gambaryan on April 7. Gambaryan, a former IRS agent who led Binance's financial crime compliance team, was taken into custody while on a business trip to Nigeria. Teng criticized Nigeria's actions, stating the country had “set a dangerous new precedent for all companies worldwide” by detaining two of its employees. Binance made efforts to engage with Nigerian authorities, including participating in regulatory discussions and cooperating with law enforcement agencies.

According to Teng, Binance employees started discussions with Nigerian authorities during public investigative hearings after a request from the Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Crimes (HCFC). The committee raised concerns about Binance's operations in Nigeria and hinted at possible measures, such as issuing arrest warrants against Binance’s team and CEO and barring its delegation from leaving the country.

A public hearing was set for Jan. 10, with Binance expected to publicly address any allegations in the presence of the petitioners, media, and over 30 agencies. Teng mentioned that Binance had not received specific details of the allegations and sought to submit responses in writing since the public hearing did not take place. The committee chair stated the request would be considered and a response given to Binance's legal counsel.

Confidential cryptocurrency settlement

Binance’s CEO alleges that unidentified individuals approached the exchange's employees, proposing a cryptocurrency payment to resolve the allegations. Teng said Binance's local counsel was presented with terms from a representative of the HCFC committee:

Counsel reported back that he had been presented with a demand for a significant payment in cryptocurrency to be paid in secret within 48 hours to make these issues go away and that our decision was expected by the morning.”

Binance refused the demand and continued engaging in settlement negotiations. Binance made several requests as it continued discussions with Nigerian authorities. Subsequent meetings took place in late February with government officials from ONSA, the office of the President, the Central Bank, NFIU, EFCC, and the Nigerian SEC.

“Despite the clear risks, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla (head of Binance Africa) received multiple assurances that they would be granted safe passage for their meetings," Teng noted.

The situation escalated when Nigerian officials made specific demands, including removing the naira from Binance’s platform and providing user information, which led to the detention of Gambaryan and Anjarwalla. In response, Binance shut down certain services in Nigeria, aiming to resolve the situation and secure Tigran's release.