EFCC deems Binance executive a flight risk, halts bail request

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  • The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has reportedly moved against the bail request of the Binance executive, Tigran Gambaryan, asking the Federal High Court in Abuja to turn down his bail application and to adjourn the hearing.
  • According to the defendant”s lawyer, Mark Mordi, the EFCC took the stand on his client’s bail request, claiming that he poses a “flight risk. “The prosecution said we are a flight risk and should not be granted bail.”
  • This follows Gambaryan’s recent bail request after pleading not guilty to money laundering charges. He is currently on remand in an Abuja correctional facility.

In March 2024, the EFCC charged Binance and two detained executives with money laundering of up to $35 million after the executives, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, were detained in February 2024, on arrival in Nigeria following a crypto platform crackdown.

Because Gambaryan’s co-detained executive escaped, the EFCC views him as a flight risk. Anjarwalla escaped custody and left Nigeria, leaving Gambaryan to face the court alone. 

Meanwhile, the escaped colleague has been apprehended in Kenya, and the Nigerian government is in talks to extradite him.

The defence lawyer also claimed that the EFCC is purposefully keeping Gambaryan in prison pending the hearing on his bail request. He provided an example of a late response to his client’s bail request, stating that he received a response in up to ten days, which is longer than the seven-day deadline.

“This is wrong. This is an abuse of prosecutorial powers. The normal time for response is a week. Now, he is telling us to come back (next) Monday,” Mordi said.

However, the EFCC counsel stated that the prosecution responded on time and was potentially unable to respond when Gambaryan “challenged the court’s jurisdiction.”

The EFCC’s counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, moved for an adjournment, allowing the bail hearing to proceed.  

Iheanochi said, “My Lord, this is a criminal trial, we need to do the needful. It will be unfair for me to be shut down on the issue of fair trial. It’s not even convenient on my own part to seek for this adjournment, but the needful needs to be done, my Lord. 

“That is why we are applying for a short adjournment for Monday or Tuesday to reconvene, and to file our further counter affidavit.”

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However, the judge granted the adjournment application and scheduled the bail hearing for April 22, 2024.

Before Gambaryan appeared in court, pleaded not guilty to the five counts charged by the EFCC, and applied for bail, the cryptocurrency exchange requested that he not be held responsible while discussions were ongoing.

Binance supported this, stating that Gambaryan has no decision-making authority within the company and is a “strict law enforcement professional who is not part of Binance management.”