US Lawmakers Seek Biden’s Intervention in Detention of Binance Executive by Nigeria

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Sixteen members of the United States House of Representatives, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Representative Rich McCormick (R-GA), have petitioned US President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Special Presidential Envoy Roger Carstens to intervene in the “wrongful detention” of US citizen and Binance executive Tigran Gambaryan by the Nigerian government.

In a letter dated 4 June, the lawmakers urged President Biden to help secure Gambaryan’s release and to ensure the “immediate transfer of his case to the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.”

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had accused Binance Holdings Limited, Gambaryan, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, another agent of the company, of allegedly conspiring to conceal the origins of financial proceeds from their purported unlawful activities in Nigeria, including $35,400,000. They were alleged to have committed an offense contrary to Section 21 (a) and punishable under Section 18(3) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022, among others.

According to the letter, “On 26 February, Mr. Gambaryan travelled to Nigeria at the invitation of the Nigerian government for high-level meetings regarding Binance’s compliance issues within the country. After two rounds of meetings, which were described as initially professional and then becoming increasingly hostile, the Government of Nigeria took Mr. Gambaryan hostage. Armed guards escorted him to his hotel room, where he was forced to surrender his passport.

“After packing his belongings, he was taken to a Nigerian government-owned house, referred to as the ‘Guest House.’ For five days, Mr Gambaryan was held hostage without the ability to inform his family, attorneys, or the US State Department of his situation. On 12 March, a court order that had been obtained by the Nigerian authorities to hold him for 14 days expired.

“On 20 March, the Chief Court 1 of the Magistrate Court of the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja, Nigeria) stated that ‘the remand order has not been extended.’ Nevertheless, it adjourned the matter to 5 April for a ruling. From 12 March to 5 April, there was no Nigerian legal basis for the continued detention of Mr Gambaryan.”

The lawmakers also noted that Gambaryan’s detention has been marked by excessive and harsh treatment. They added that he is not permitted to meet with his legal team without the presence of government officials and armed guards.

“On behalf of Mr. Gambaryan, his family, and concerned Americans, we, the undersigned, urgently request and strongly encourage the transfer of his case to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. Mr. Gambaryan’s health and well-being are in danger, and we fear for his life. Immediate action is essential to ensure his safety and preserve his life. We must act swiftly before it is too late,” the lawmakers said.