$150m bribery allegation by Binance diversionary – FG 


 The federal government Wednesday described bribery allegations by Binance against some Nigerian government officials as diversionary.

Binance Chief Executive Officer Richard Teng had, in a blog post published by many international media organisations, made allegations of bribery against unidentified Nigerian government officials who he claimed, demanded $150m in cryptocurrency payments to resolve the ongoing criminal investigation against the company. 

But the minister of information and national orientation Alhaji Mohammed Idris, in a statement issued by his media aide, Rabiu Ibrahim, Monday, said the allegation was a well-coordinated public relations effort to “launder its impaired image as an organisation that does not play by the rules and laws guiding business conduct in sovereign nations.”

Idris said the claim by Binance CEO lacks any iota of substance.

“It is nothing but a diversionary tactic and an attempted act of blackmail by a company desperate to obfuscate the grievous criminal charges it is facing in Nigeria,” he said. 

The minister said the federal government of Nigeria will continue to act within its laws and international norms and will not succumb to any form of blackmail from any local or foreign entities.

He said: “The facts of this matter remain that Binance is being investigated in Nigeria for allowing its platform to be used for money laundering, terrorism financing, and foreign exchange manipulation through illegal trading.

“While this lawful investigation was going on, an executive of Binance, who was in court-sanctioned protective custody, escaped from Nigeria, and he is now a fugitive from the law. Working with the security agencies in Nigeria, Interpol is currently executing an international arrest warrant on the said fugitive.

“The phantom bribe claim is part of an orchestrated international campaign by this company that is facing criminal prosecution in many countries, including the United States, to undermine the Nigerian government. 

“Just a week ago, the founder and former CEO of Binance, Changpeng Zhao, was sentenced to prison in the United States, after pleading guilty to charges very similar to what Binance is being investigated for in Nigeria. In addition, Zhao agreed to pay a fine of $50 million, while Binance is liable for $4.3 billion in fines and forfeitures to the US Government. 

“We would like to remind Binance that it will not clear its name in Nigeria by resorting to fictional claims and mudslinging media campaigns. The only way to resolve its issues will be by submitting itself to unobstructed investigation and judicial due process. “

 …Reps wade in

In a related development, the House of Representatives Wednesday resolved to investigate the circumstances leading to the escape of one of the two Binance chiefs from the custody of the National Security Adviser (NSA).

The executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, was detained for money laundering, but escaped from the NSA custody March 22, 2024, and arrested in Kenya from where he is expected to be extradited to Nigeria by Interpol for further prosecution.

The House, while adopting a motion moved by Dominic Okafor (LP, Anambra), directed its relevant committees to conduct an investigation on the detainee’s escape and fish out those culpable in the escape and brought to justice.

…The motion

In his motion, Okafor recalled that the Nigerian government arrested and detained Anjarwalla, an executive of a cryptocurrency exchange company, Binance on February 26, 2024, for alleged complicity of the company in money laundering and terrorism financing.

He said the two Binance executives were scheduled to appear in court April 4, 2024, to answer to the alleged crimes against Nigeria before the security breach occurred, leading to the escape of one of the company’s executives in a very scandalous dimension.

The lawmaker expressed shock that persons suspected to have committed such atrocious crimes against the State of Nigeria with already over-burdened security challenges were kept in a guest house in Abuja, as against lawful custody of the Department of State Service (DSS) or any other approved custodial facility.

Okafor further submitted that the escape of the Binance executive from the office of the National Security Adviser using a “Smuggled Passport” is, to say the least, most disappointing, embarrassing, and disturbing as it portrays the porosity of the security architecture of the country to the world.

He noted that weeks after the “unfortunate escape and the inability of the Security forces to re-arrest Nadeem Anjarwalla, the Kenyan Police arrested him on April 22, 2024, as the International Criminal Police Organization.”

And rising under privilege, another lawmaker, Nkama Nkemkama (LP, Ebony), claimed an official of an unnamed company accused the House of demanding a bribe from them.

The lawmaker insisted the House never had any dealings with the individual whose name he failed to disclose,  but called  for investigation by the Green Chamber  to determine the veracity or otherwise of the claim.

“We have never invited this person before. This House has never had a meeting with this person before. And this person woke up one morning and decided to accuse this House of demanding a bribe from them. This House can never allow itself to be embarrassed or talked down on in any way,” Nkemkama noted.

About Benjamin Samson and Joshua Egbodo, Abuja

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