Arraignment of Binance Executive in Nigeria Stalled

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Tigran Gambaryan, a top official of Binance, a crypto exchange platform on Thursday appeared at the Federal High Court in Abuja for arraignment over tax evasion allegations levelled against the company.

Binance, Gambaryan and fleeing Nadeem Anjarwalla, are facing a four-count charge by the Nigerian government brought before the court, a case now before Emeka Nwite, the trial judge. 

Even though Binance had no legal representation in court Thursday, Gambaryan took to the dock to have the charges read to him. But his counsel, Chukwuka Ikwazuonu, notified the court that his client had not been served with the charge, stating it was rather too hasty to have him take to the dock without knowing what his client is about to be tried for.

The prosecutor from the Federal Inland Revenue FIRS, Moses Ideho, informed the judge that service of the charge hadn’t been possible due to lack of access to the defendant in custody. 

This prompted the Court to order service of the charge on the defendant in open court. And following this, the Judge, Emeka Nwite, adjourned till 19 April for arraignment of Tigran Gambaryan. 

In the second case by the anti-graft agency, the EFCC, through its counsel E.E. Iheanacho informed the Court that he had served Tigran Gambaryan with the charge. But Mark Mordi, counsel for the defendant, this time around, said Binance, the company which he represents hasn’t been served, therefore arraignment couldn’t go ahead. 

Moreso, as it’s a joint charge, Mordi argued that it’s necessary to serve every person individually with the charges before the case can go ahead. He also informed the Court that his client declined service of the charge on behalf of Binance because he wasn’t authorized to do so. 

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The prosecutor however maintained that the defendant, being a top official of Binance was a fitting representative of the company in this particular instance. But stated that in the alternative however, the Court can enter a not guilty plea for Binance to allow the case go ahead. 

Both the prosecutor and the defendant’s counsel had a back and forth over service of the charge and who has authorization to represent a particular company, basing their arguments on sections of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA. 

The judge therefore fixed April 8 to rule on which should be the appropriate mode to serve the charge on the defendants.

Godfrey Eshiemoghie 

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