FG To Arraign Binance, 2 Others For Alleged Tax Evasion April 4

The Federal Government will, on April 4, arraigned Binance Holdings Limited and its two top officials; Tigran Gambaryan and fleeing Nadeem Anjarwalla, on allegations bordering on tax evasion.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reliably gathered on Thursday that Binance, Mr Gambaryan and Mr Anjarwalla, listed as 1st to 3rd defendants respectively, are expected to be arraigned before Justice Emeka Nwite of a Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja on four-count charge.

NAN reports that while Anjarwalla is Binance’s Africa regional manager, Gambaryan, is a US citizen overseeing financial crime compliance at the crypto exchange platform.

However, Anjarwalla, who had been in detention alongside Gambaryan, was said to have escaped from lawful custody.

Anjarwalla escaped on Friday from the Abuja guest house where he and his colleague were detained after guards on duty led him to a nearby mosque for prayers in the spirit of the ongoing Ramadan fast.

The Briton, who also has Kenyan citizenship, is believed to have flown out of Abuja using a Middle East airliner.

NAN reports that though the FHC’s Easter vacation, which began on March 22, will come to an end on April 8, the Chief Judge of FHC, Justice John Tsoho, directed the transfer of Binance case file to Justice Nwite.

Although Justice Nwite is not a vacation judge, it was gathered that the chief judge granted the fiat for the judge to handle the case during vacation being a matter that concerns dire national interest.

Hearing notices had been related to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the prosecuting agency, and counsel to other parties for the defendants to take their plea.

In the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/115/2024 dated and filed March 22 by the FIRS’ team of lawyers, led by Moses Ideho, the defendants were alleged to have committed the offence on or about Feb. 1.

Count one alleged that while involved in carrying and offering services to subscribers on their platform, known as Binance, failed to register with the FIRS, for the purpose of paying all relevant taxes administered by the service.

Count two alleged that while they were offering taxable services to subscribers on their trading platform known as Binance, failed to issue invoices to those subscribers for the purposes of determining and payment of their value added taxes (VATs).

Count three accused them of offering services to subscribers on their trading platform in the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies and in the remittance and transfer of those assets, and that having offered those services, was obliged to deduct VATs, and did fail to deduct necessary VATs, arising from their operations.

In count four, the defendants were alleged to have while involved in the offering of services to subscribers on their trading platform, did aid and abet those subscribers to unlawfully refuse to pay taxes, or neglect to pay those taxes.

The offences are said to be punishable under Sections 8 and 29 of the VAT Act of 1993 (as Amended), Section 40 of the FIRS Establishment Act, 2007 (as amended) and under provisions of Section 94 of the Companies Income Tax Act (as amended) respectively.

In the affidavit deposed to by Mercy Aliyu, a legal officer with the FIRS’ Litigation and Prosecution Department, she averred that investigations that culminated to the charge had substantially been concluded.

She said that “there are reasonable grounds that a prima facie case of tax evasion exists against the accused persons.”

Aliyu said the following documents would be tendered in the course of the trial, including a tax investigation report on the activities of Binance.

She also said statement of Stephen Dazi Hoke, statement of Saudi Abdulsalam, statement of Saliu Olarewanju and a letter signed by Siemon Kato requesting for information from Taxpro Max all dated March 19 would be tendered.

Besides, she said a report on the investigation on the activities of Binance, with respect to tax evasion also dated March 19 and any other reports on the tax evasion of Binance would be made available to establish their case.

NAN had, on March 18, reported that Justice Nwite 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.

The judge granted the interim order after ruling on the ex-parte motion moved by the EFCC’s lawyer, Ekele Iheanacho.

The interim order was granted to enable the anti-graft agency unravel the alleged money laundering and terrorism financing on Binance platform.

The commission said it uncovered users who had been using the platform for price discovery, confirmation and market manipulation which had caused tremendous distortions in the market, resulting in the Naira losing its values against other currencies.

The EFCC said that from the information afforded to its team of Investigators by Binance showed that the total trading volume from Nigeria in 2023 alone stood at 21.6 billion dollars .


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