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In a surprising development, Tigran Gambaryan, a detained executive of cryptocurrency exchange Binance, collapsed in court on May 23 during his ongoing money laundering trial in Abuja, Nigeria. The incident took place at the Federal High Court and occurred shortly after the case was called for continuation before Justice Emeka Nwite. Gambaryan, along with British-Kenyan national Nadeem Anjarwalla, is facing charges of laundering over $35 million and engaging in specialized financial activities without a license. Both executives have entered a plea of not guilty.

The courtroom drama unfolded when Gambaryan, Binance’s head of financial crimes compliance, did not immediately step forward to the dock when the case was called. He was assisted by his lawyer towards the dock but collapsed on the way and had to be seated in the front row due to his deteriorating health. Gambaryan’s lawyer informed the court of his client’s health condition and submitted a written application notifying the court of his condition. Gambaryan’s health issues have reportedly worsened since February, with him receiving intravenous treatment for malaria the day before the collapse in court.

Judge Emeka Nwite ruled that Gambaryan should receive treatment at the hospital recommended by his lawyer or another designated by prison authorities. The trial has been adjourned to June 20 and 21 to allow Gambaryan to receive medical attention. The case has attracted significant attention, especially in light of Nigeria’s economic challenges and accusations of Binance contributing to the country’s currency woes. Throughout the proceedings, Gambaryan was visibly weak and leaned on the armrest of his seat, highlighting his deteriorating health.

In addition to the money laundering charges, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has filed tax evasion charges against Binance Holdings Limited and Gambaryan. However, due to Gambaryan’s absence from the arraignment session, the trial could not proceed on the scheduled date and has been rescheduled to June 14. Gambaryan, reportedly held at Kuje Prison, did not appear for his arraignment, leading to confusion among the lawyers. Justice Emeka Nwite had previously denied Gambaryan’s bail application and deemed him a flight risk due to new money laundering charges filed by the EFCC.

Anjarwalla, who escaped custody in March, is still involved in the case but has not been officially marked as “at large.” This could complicate proceedings, as Nigerian law requires all parties to be served for the case to move forward. The prosecution and defense have been arguing over the failure to ensure Gambaryan’s presence, leading to the adjournment of the trial. The case has brought attention to the ongoing challenges within Nigeria’s legal system and the complexities involved in prosecuting individuals involved in financial crimes and tax evasion.

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