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The escape of the Binance executive and other security matters By ETIM ETIM



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The escape of Nadeem Anjanwalla, one of the two detained executives of Binance Holdings Ltd, from the DSS custody in Abuja is the most embarrassing security breach of the Tinubu administration and it’s a clear pointer to the porosity of our fight against terrorism and financial crimes.

Elsewhere, such lapses would automatically lead to the sack of the security chief, arrest of the guards and their supervisors and the resignation of the supervising minister. But in Nigeria, the government will move on as if nothing happened. So far, the government has remained tightlipped.

Anjarwalla and his colleague, Tigran Gamabaryan, together with their company, Binance Holdings, were facing charges of tax evasion, money laundering and other offences in the Federal High Court Abuja. The two men have been in DSS custody since February 26 when they arrived the country. Anjarwalla is Binance’s Africa regional manager and Gambaryan, a US citizen is its compliant officer.

The company is facing serious criminal charges including nonpayment of VAT, company income tax and complicity in aiding its customers to evade taxes through its platform; failure to register with FIRS for tax purposes and unwillingness to collect and remit various categories of taxes to the federal government, thus contravening Section 40 of the FIRS Act of 2007.

In addition, Binance is accused of encouraging speculative currency trading on its platform which was responsible for the drastic fall in the value of the Naira. The two men are co-defendants in the case.

A criminal charge was filed against the two executives before a Magistrate Court in Abuja, and on February 28, the court granted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) an order to remand the duo for 14 days. The court also ordered Binance to provide the Nigerian government with the data/information of Nigerians trading on its platform. But the company refused to comply with the order and the court extended the remand of the officials for an additional 14 days to prevent them from tampering with evidence. The court then adjourned the case till April 4.

Meantime, the government has revealed that over $21.6 billion was traded by Nigerians whose identities were concealed by Binance. The government also believes that some dubious persons were using Binance for money laundering, terrorist financing, currency speculation and market manipulation, distorting the Nigerian economy and weakening the Naira against other currencies.

These are very serious indictments that border on serious economic sabotage against the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Whosoever aided and abetted the escape of one of them should be treated as an economic saboteur and an enemy of Nigeria.

According to Premium Times, Anjarwalla, 38, escaped on Friday, 22 March, from the Abuja guest house of the DSS 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. A British citizen with a dual Kenyan citizenship, Anjarwalla is believed to have fled on a Middle East airliner. Security officials are however puzzled that Anjarwalla left the country although his British passport, with which he entered Nigeria, had been seized by the Nigerian authorities.

I am not puzzled. Rich people can wangle their way out of any tight situation, especially in a nation of corrupt officials. For a man who was detained in a comfortable setting in a guest house and allowed use of telephones, it is no brainer that he was able arrange for his Kenyan passport to be sent to him, and with that he fled Nigeria. It is also likely that Anjawarlla had also compromised our security guards with huge financial inducements. In December 2019, Nissan chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, escaped from a house arrest in Japan to his country, Lebanon, in what has been described as a most daring escape of the 21st century.

The escape of the Binance executive is the latest in the long string of security challenges that has plagued the country in recent months, the recent being the kidnap of over 140 school children in Kaduna and killings of 17 soldiers and six policemen in Delta State.

Although President Tinubu has shown some courage in tackling insecurity, there are indications that there are powerful fifth columnists who are willing to sabotage his efforts. The persistent killings of peasant farmers in North Central region and the inability of the security forces to stop them smacks of collusion between some elements in the security forces and the terrorists.

The upsurge in violence in the Niger Delta, especially the persistent massacres of soldiers and policemen is seen as an attempt to plunge the region into another orgy of violence in order to disrupt oil production. A prolonged cessation oil exports may lead to an unprecedented economic crisis and immense social upheavals.

In many jurisdictions, Binance is mired in legal controversies. In February, Binance Holdings Ltd agreed to pay $4.3 billion fine in a plea deal to settle criminal money laundering charges levelled by the US Department of Justice. Binance founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao, also known as CZ, pleaded guilty and agreed to resign. His criminal trial has been postponed to 30 April by a US court. The government must seek to bring Anjawarlla back to face the law and all those who are complicit in his escape should be punished.