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The Nigerian government has filed new tax evasion charges against global cryptocurrency exchange Binance, alleging non-payment of Value-Added Tax (VAT), company income tax, failure to submit tax returns, and complicity in aiding customers to evade taxes through its platform. Two senior executives, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, were charged and detained in Nigeria, with reports emerging that Anjarwalla has escaped custody. The country is in talks with Interpol to secure an international arrest warrant for Anjarwalla, while the families of the detained executives have expressed concern over their prolonged absence. Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were initially taken into custody on Feb. 26, with accusations of their employer impacting the country’s local currency.

The Nigerian naira has drastically lost value against the U.S. dollar, prompting locals to turn to cryptocurrencies to protect their savings from economic instability. Binance’s troubles in Nigeria are not simply a result of a crypto crackdown, but rather a response to the government’s concerns about the movement of money through the exchange and allegations of money laundering. The government also claimed that Binance was facilitating speculation on the price of the naira through its peer-to-peer marketplace, leading to an investigation into the exchange’s operations. Binance has since shut down its peer-to-peer trading platform in Nigeria in response to the allegations and legal action taken by Nigerian authorities.

The families of Gambaryan and Anjarwalla have expressed distress over the prolonged detention of the executives, with Anjarwalla’s wife appealing to Nigerian authorities to allow them to return home while discussions with Binance continue. Gambaryan’s wife also raised concerns about the impact on their children in light of their father’s absence. The executives were not initially charged with any crimes when they were detained, but the Nigerian government has since filed tax evasion charges against Binance and its employees. The situation has escalated to involve international agencies such as Interpol, as efforts are made to secure an arrest warrant for Anjarwalla.

Nigeria has previously raised concerns about Binance, with the Securities and Exchange Commission warning against doing business with the exchange in 2023. The circular issued at the time highlighted the risks associated with dealing with Binance and suggested that investments made through the exchange could result in total loss. The recent legal action taken against Binance and its executives is part of the government’s efforts to address allegations of tax evasion and financial misconduct within the cryptocurrency space. The developments in Nigeria reflect broader challenges faced by global cryptocurrency exchanges operating in jurisdictions with evolving regulatory landscapes and heightened scrutiny from authorities. As the situation unfolds, the impact on Binance’s operations in Nigeria and the broader cryptocurrency industry remains uncertain.

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