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Reps panel mulls arrest warrant on Binance executives for ‘ignoring invitations’

A house of representatives committee is considering recommending an arrest warrant on the executives of Binance, the cryptocurrency company. 

The committee on financial crimes made the ruling at its sitting on Monday, after the leadership of Binance failed to appear before it.

The committee turned back Senator Ihenyen, the legal representative of Binance.

Ginger Onwusibe, chairman of the committee, said members of the panel had resolved “not to entertain” any representatives apart from the executives of Binance.

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“Binance is not here. We have taken a position on it in our last sitting that we are not going to entertain legal representation from Binance and that position stands,” Onwusibe said.

The committee had summoned Richard Teng, chief executive of Binance, over an alleged money laundering, illegal operations, financial terrorism, and tax evasion petition from the Niger Delta Youth Council World Wide, Empowerment for Unemployed Youth Initiative, and other civil society organisations.

Onwusibe said the committee had sent a letter dated December 12, 2023, inviting Teng, but he disregarded the invitation along with several subsequent ones.

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“Based on the fact that Binance is not here, we need to make a recommendation to the house of representatives for the house to invoke its powers of subpoena to issue a warrant for the leadership of Binance to be arrested and be brought to this committee to answer questions of the grave allegations levelled against them in the petitions brought to us by the Empowerment for Unemployed Youths and Niger Delta youths Council,” the committee chairman said. 

“This committee has resolved to recommend to the house to invoke its constitutional powers by issuing a subpoena and a warrant for Binance executives to be arrested and brought to this Committee to answer these questions regarding relationship financing of terrorism, money laundering and other financial crimes as stated in the petition, including evasion of tax.

“We thank the petitioners for unearthing this grievous financial crime going on in this country for more than six years now.

“Binance has been operating in the financial space of this country for more than six years and they have not less than 20 million Nigerians that they are exploiting.”

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CLAIMS AGAINST BINANCE

The cryptocurrency trading platform is facing a crackdown by the federal government.

The federal government had accused Binance of “illegal transactions” in Nigeria, demanding at least $10 billion as retribution.

The government reportedly detained two top executives of Binance on February 28, 2024, over allegations of price manipulation.

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On February 27, Olayemi Cardoso, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said $26 billion passed through Binance Nigeria from unidentified sources in one year.

Cardoso said the apex bank is collaborating with the SEC to ensure there is no manipulation in the FX market.

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He said there was also collaboration between the different agencies, which includes the EFCC, the police, and the office of the national security adviser (NSA).

On June 9, 2023, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said the operations of Binance Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Binance, were illegal.

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Meanwhile, despite the federal government and the CBN’s clampdown, Binance is still operational in Nigeria.

The crypto firm, has, however discontinued the trading of the naira against bitcoin and tether cryptocurrencies on its exchange platform.

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