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NSA confirms escape of Binance executive, says officials responsible for custody arrested

Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance regional manager for Africa Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance regional manager for Africa

The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) has confirmed the escape of Nadeem Anjarwalla, the Binance regional manager for Africa.

A statement by Zakari Mijinyawa, head of strategic communication at ONSA, said “preliminary investigation shows that Mr Anjarwalla fled Nigeria using a smuggled passport”.

“The personnel responsible for the custody of the suspect have been arrested, and a thorough investigation is ongoing to unravel the circumstances that led to his escape from lawful detention,” the statement reads.

On Monday, a report by Premium Times said the Binance executive escaped from the Abuja guest house where he and his colleague were detained, on March 22.

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Anjarwalla was said to have escaped after guards on duty led him to a nearby mosque for prayers in the spirit of the ongoing Ramadan fast.

He is believed to have flown out of Abuja using a Middle Eastern airline — but how he got on an international flight despite his British passport, was unknown.

ONSA said “upon receiving this report, this office took immediate steps, in conjunction with relevant security agencies, MDAs, as well as the international community, to apprehend the suspect”.

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“Security agencies are working with Interpol for an international arrest warrant on the suspect,” the statement added.

“Recall that the Federal Government of Nigeria, like other governments around the world, has been investigating money laundering and terrorism financing transactions perpetrated on the Binance currency exchange platform.

“Until his escape, Nadeem Anjarwalla, who holds British and Kenyan nationalities and serving as Binance’s Africa regional manager, was being tried by Nigerian courts.

“The suspect escaped while under a 14-day remand order by a court in Nigeria. He was scheduled to appear before the court again on 4 April 2024.

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“We urge the Nigerian public and the international community to provide whatever information they have that can assist law enforcement agencies to apprehend the suspect.”

BACKGROUND

On February 28, two of Binance’s top executives – Anjarwalla, a 37-year-old British-Kenyan and Binance’s regional manager for Africa; and Tigran Gambaryan, a 39-year-old US citizen and Binance’s head of financial crime compliance, were detained by Nigerian authorities for weeks.

Anjarwalla and Gambaryan had flown into Nigeria but had their passports seized by ONSA.

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On March 12, Anjarwalla was transferred to a local hospital after he fell ill while in detention in Nigeria.

Following the arrest of the two executives as part of a broader clampdown on crypto platforms, a federal high court in Abuja ordered Binance Holdings Limited to provide the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with the comprehensive data or information of all persons from Nigeria trading on its platform.

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Binance has also been accused of evading tax, failing to register with the Federal Inland Revenue Service  (FIRS) and currency speculation.

The federal government had requested at least $10 billion as retribution from Binance for profiting from “its illegal transactions” in Nigeria.

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Bayo Onanuga, special adviser on information and strategy to President Bola Tinubu, who had disclosed this in an interview with the BBC, said the cryptocurrency platform was causing massive losses by “fixing exchange rates”.

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