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Binance Alleges Request of $150m Bribe by Some Nigerian Officials



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Tigran Gambaryan, a compliance officer for Binance Holdings Ltd, giant cryptocurrency exchange, has alleged that the company was given 48 hours to make a payment of roughly $150 million in crypto to make its problems in Nigeria go away.

Binance Alleges Request of $150m Bribe by Some Nigerian Officials

Richard Teng,, CEO, Binance Holdings Ltd

Also Richard Teng, chief executive officer of the company, in a recent blog post, confirmed that alleged extortion attempt the company faced in Nigeria.

Teng highlighted the demand for a significant payment to alleviate issues in the country amidst its crackdown on crypto and the devaluation of the naira.

“We were asked for a large payment in Nigeria to make problems there ‘go away’,” Teng stated, underscoring the challenges encountered by the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange.

He also reiterated Binance’s plea for the release of an employee detained in Nigeria.

But Gambaryan, a compliance officer for Binance said that on a trip to Nigeria in January,,he  received an unsettling message:

The company had 48 hours to make a payment of roughly $150 million in crypto.

Mr. Gambaryan, a former U.S. law enforcement agent, understood the message as a request for a bribe from someone in the Nigerian government, according to five people familiar with the matter and messages reviewed by The New York Times.

He and a group of his Binance colleagues had just met with Nigerian legislators, who accused the company of tax violations and threatened to arrest its employees.

The Binance officials fled Nigeria in a panic. Later that month, Mr. Gambaryan wrote a three-page report describing the payment request and gave it to Binance’s lawyers, two people familiar with the report said.

He also alerted contacts in the Nigerian government, the people said, and recounted the incident to them.

The episode was the backdrop for a second trip to Nigeria that Mr. Gambaryan took in February.

On his return, he and a colleague, Nadeem Anjarwalla, were arrested by the Nigerian authorities, setting off a crisis at Binance.

Mr. Gambaryan has been held in Kuje prison in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, for the last four weeks, after he was transferred there from a government compound on April 8.

His case is the latest legal headache for Binance, which agreed to a $4.3 billion fine last year to settle charges by the U.S. government that it allowed criminal activity to flourish on its platform. In April, the company’s founder, Changpeng Zhao, was sentenced to four months in prison for his role in those violations.

The Nigerian authorities have charged both Binance and Mr. Gambaryan with tax evasion and money laundering. Binance has denied that Mr. Gambaryan had any “decision-making power” in the company.

“The message from the Nigerian government is clear,” Binance’s chief executive, Richard Teng, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. “We must detain an innocent, mid-level employee and a former U.S. federal agent, and place him in a dangerous prison in order to control Binance.”

Zakari Mijinyawa, a spokesman for Nigeria’s national security adviser, said in a text that the Nigerian government would make its case “on the strength of the facts and evidence, in accordance with due process.”

“We are confident that Nigeria has a good case,” Mr. Mijinyawa said. “Binance equally will have every opportunity under the rule of law to make its case and see justice delivered.”

In the blog post, Mr. Teng laid out the history of Binance’s engagement with Nigeria, which has become a hot spot for the crypto industry. It has the second-highest rate of crypto adoption in the world behind India, according to Chainalysis, a data firm.

In 2023, Nigerian financial regulators issued a statement directing Binance to stop soliciting investors in Nigeria. Binance halted its advertising in the country and offered to meet with government officials, Mr. Teng said.

But tensions continued to escalate. Over recent months, Nigerian officials have argued that trading on Binance contributed to the collapse of the country’s currency, the naira. And in December, a committee of the Nigerian House of Representatives asked that Binance representatives appear for a hearing.

On Jan. 8, Mr. Gambaryan and a group of Binance employees met with those lawmakers. Soon the meeting turned contentious:

The lawmakers read aloud a list of accusations against Binance, including tax violations.

They also threatened to pursue an arrest warrant for Mr. Teng, the blog post said.

As the Binance employees left the meeting, Mr. Teng wrote, they were approached by “unknown persons” who suggested that they make a payment to settle the allegations. Later, a local lawyer representing Binance spoke with someone purporting to be an agent of the House committee, Mr. Teng wrote.

The purported agent demanded “a significant payment in cryptocurrency to be paid in secret within 48 hours to make these issues go away,” Mr. Teng wrote. The amount was roughly $150 million, four people familiar with the matter said.

“Our team grew increasingly concerned about their safety in Nigeria and immediately departed,” Mr. Teng wrote in his post. “We, of course, declined the payment demand via our counsel, not viewing it to be a legitimate settlement offer.”

After he left Nigeria in January, Mr. Gambaryan discussed the incident with colleagues and circulated his report describing the payment request, two people familiar with the matter said.

Later that month, Mr. Gambaryan began setting up meetings with Nigerian security and financial crimes enforcement officials. At the time, he noted that senior leaders at the financial crimes office were eager to discuss what had happened during the Jan. 8 meeting, a person familiar with the conversations said.

In a text message last month, Dele Oyewale, a spokesman for Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, declined to comment on the payment solicitation.

He did not respond to a request for comment on Monday by New York Times.

In his post on Tuesday, Mr. Teng wrote that Binance had received assurances that Mr. Gambaryan would be safe if he returned to Nigeria.

A company adviser with deep local connections recommended that Binance officials meet with the Nigerian national security adviser’s office, Mr. Teng wrote.

Mr. Gambaryan and Mr. Anjarwalla arrived for that meeting on Feb. 26.

After a couple of hours of discussion, Mr. Teng wrote, a Nigerian financial crimes official took Mr. Gambaryan aside and told him that “everything was progressing well.”

Then different Nigerian officials entered the room, demanding that Binance provide granular information about its users in Nigeria — a request the company was unwilling to meet.

Mr. Gambaryan’s and Mr. Anjarwalla’s passports were confiscated, and the two men were held for three weeks in a secure compound.

On March 22, their lawyers received word that criminal charges were coming.

Mr. Anjarwalla escaped the next day. He left Nigeria and has not spoken publicly since.

Mr. Gambaryan was alone in the compound. Shortly after he arrived, financial crimes officials in Nigeria had sent a note to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, according to a copy of the message viewed by The Times.

“It is important to emphasize that Mr. Tigran is currently having a discussion with our team and the intent of his stay is purely for the purpose of constructive dialogue,” the letter said. “We assure you that the individual is participating willingly.”

Mr. Gambaryan was soon transferred to Kuje, a notorious facility where the Islamic State staged a prison break in 2022.

A trial was scheduled to begin last Thursday, but the court postponed it until May 17.


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Court Dismisses Base Stations Lawsuit Against ATC, MTN



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ATC Nigeria, a subsidiary of American Tower Corporation, and MTN Nigeria scored a major victory in court last week over constructing or operating base transceiver stations “within close proximity” to stations owned by IHS Towers Nigeria.

The lawsuit against the two had been filed by non-profit organisation, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre, in November 2023.

Additionally, HEDA also filed a contempt of court case against ATC Nigeria’s CEO, Errol Ambler-Smith, seeking his arrest, which HEDA later withdrew.

ATC Nigeria announced that on Friday, June 21, 2024, the court struck out HEDA’s suit against ATC Nigeria and MTN Nigeria on the grounds that it was speculative and failed to disclose any reasonable cause of action.

American Tower said it has “always been and remains committed to upholding” the highest standards of legal compliance and operational integrity in all its activities.

“We are pleased that the court recognised the speculative nature of HEDA’s lawsuit, and we are hopeful that this outcome will send a message to other similar potential speculative lawsuits. We appreciate the support and understanding of all our stakeholders as we continue to invest in, and provide critical infrastructure for, Nigeria’s telecommunications industry,” ATC Nigeria said in a statement.

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Airtel Boosts Sickle Cell Awareness with CrimsonBow Initiative Collaboration



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In commemoration of this year’s World Sickle Cell Day, Airtel Nigeria partnered with the CrimsonBow Sickle Cell Initiative to host a well-attended sickle cell awareness and clinic over the weekend, at Dansol Primary School, Ikeja, Lagos.

The event which aimed at improving sickle cell education and supporting individuals living with sickle cell disease, featured free counselling for sickle cell patients, free medical testing, drug dispensing, and sensitization sessions to educate the public about the sickle cell disease.

Through the partnership, much-needed support and resources were provided to affected individuals while promoting early detection and proper management of the condition.

Commenting on the involvement of Airtel in the program, Chief Commercial Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Femi Oshinlaja, emphasized Airtel’s dedication to good health as part of the telecommunication company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals.

“We are proud to partner with CrimsonBow Sickle Cell Initiative in this important endeavour, as it reflects our commitment to corporate social responsibility and improving community health outcomes. The goal of this partnership is to provide crucial support to individuals living with sickle cell disease and to help raise awareness about the condition.

“Through this partnership, we strongly hope to make a positive impact on the lives of those affected,” he said.

Speaking at the event, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CrimsonBow Sickle Cell Initiative, Timi Edwin, expressed gratitude to Airtel. In her remarks, “This partnership with Airtel Nigeria allows us to extend our reach and provide essential services to more individuals living with sickle cell disease. We appreciate Airtel Nigeria for their support in making this event possible.”

Airtel Nigeria has continued to reinforce its position as an organization committed to the well-being of the society through various corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Asides initiative partnerships like this to combat the challenges faced by individuals living with sickle cell disease, they continue to make strides under several CSR initiatives, contributing to the overall effort to enhance the general wellness of Nigerians.


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Tinubu appoints Tunji Bello as CEO of FCCPC



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President Bola Tinubu has appointed Olatunji Bello as the new Chief Executive Officer/Executive Vice-Chairman of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, who disclosed this in a statement on Monday, noted that the appointment is pending confirmation by the Senate.

He said that the President expects that the new Chief Executive Officer of this important agency will ensure the holistic realization of the Commission’s mandate of protecting and promoting the interest and welfare of Nigerian consumers and ensuring the adoption of measures to guarantee the safety and quality of goods and services.

Bello, who is a lawyer, administrator, and renowned journalist, is the former secretary to the Lagos State Government and holds a Master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos.

“He studied Law at the same university and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2002,” the statement read.

“Bello began his career in journalism at the Concord Newspapers in 1985 and held the positions of Group Political Editor; Sunday Concord Editor, and Editor, National Concord.

“He is a winner of the US Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship and was appointed the Chairman, Editorial Board of THISDAY Newspapers in 2001.

“He also served as Commissioner for Environment under various administrations in Lagos State.

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