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American Binance security expert transferred to notorious Nigerian prison: ‘our nightmare has gotten worse’

Nigerian government holds Tigran Gambaryan as apparent collateral for charges levied at cryptocurrency firm Binance amid a failing economy and soaring inflation.

The nightmare continues for an American security expert for cryptocurrency firm Binance, Tigran Gambaryan, who was remanded on Monday to Nigeria’s notorious Kuje prison after he pleaded not guilty to charges relating to tax evasion and money laundering.

Gambaryan, head of the financial crime compliance team for the world’s largest cryptocurrency company, was charged alongside Binance on five counts of financial crimes filed by Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) amounting to an alleged $35 million.

Binance and Gambaryan have argued that he holds "no decision-making power in the company" and therefore cannot be held responsible for any ongoing disputes between the firm and the Nigerian government. A Binance statement notes that he was even involved in training officials in Nigeria. 

In a statement, Binance noted in part that "Tigran’s team also provided multiple training sessions for Nigerian crime fighters on the role of exchanges in the digital-asset ecosystem. This included a three-hour online workshop for 70 Nigerian EFCC officials in mid-2023 and, late last year, two full-day sessions for EFCC officials in Abuja and Lagos, with more than 30 investigators attending each of them."


Justice Emeka Nwite dismissed this objection on Monday and ruled that Gambaryan had confirmed that he arrived in Nigeria as a representative of Binance, which "clearly shows his involvement" with the firm and therefore enables him to be served the charges also levied against the company, reported Bloomberg.

The prosecuting team called for Gambaryan’s transfer from the facility where he was being held to the Kuje prison in the capital city of Abuja, a prison known to hold Islamic extremists like Boko Haram. 

Defense attorney for Gambaryan, Mark Mordi, argued that given his 40-day detention, which was deemed unlawful as no charges were filed against him during that time, the court should hear his bail plea on Thursday or remand him to the prosecuting EFCC agency instead, reported local media outlet the Premium Times.

Nwite again rejected this argument and reportedly said, "This defendant should be detained at the correctional center after the arraignment. There have been Nigerians who had been convicted in the U.S and were detained in their prisons."


Gambaryan has not been convicted of any crimes, and his trial date is set to start May 2. 

"I cannot believe our nightmare has gotten worse," Gambaryan’s wife Yuki said in a statement Monday. "I am beyond heartbroken that my innocent husband is being sent to a prison that houses known terrorists and murderers. 

"He is clearly a scapegoat for whatever problems they are facing and it is beyond unacceptable that this is how they are treating a completely innocent man," she added.

Yuki’s belief that her husband is being used as a scapegoat has reportedly been shared by other U.S. security and economic experts who point to Nigeria’s failing economy and Abuja’s attempts to land the blame on cryptocurrency. 

Soaring inflation and the diminishing value of Nigeria’s currency, the naira, has prompted millions of Nigerians to look to cryptocurrency as a more reliable method to protect their finances.  


Binance is the most popular cryptocurrency exchange in Nigeria, with some 13 million customers and nearly $57 million worth of transactions reported in 2023, according to the "Click Here" podcast

However, the unregulated nature of the cryptocurrency company and monetary policy failures in Nigeria have left Abuja scrambling, and Binance has been blamed for allegedly devaluing the naira.

Gambaryan, along with a colleague of his, regional manager for Africa Nadeem Anjarwalla, traveled to Abuja in late February to discuss the economic disputes. 

The pair were abruptly detained, however, and their passports seized, after sitting down for what appeared to be a standard meeting with policy officials on Feb. 26.

After being held for several weeks, Anjarwalla, who holds dual citizenship in Kenya and the U.K., escaped his captivity on March 23, and his whereabouts remain unknown.

In a video obtained by Fox News Digital, Gambaryan said he was concerned about what would happen to him next. 

"I don’t know what’s going to happen to me after today," he said in a video pleading for the U.S. government to intervene. "I’ve done nothing wrong."

Gambaryan made a name for himself in the cryptocurrency world while working as a special agent for the IRS after he discovered that illicit blockchain transactions were in fact traceable.

He has been dubbed the "accountant with a gun" and the "Bitcoin wizard" – a reputation that appealed to Binance when he joined the company in 2021. 

"I’ve been a cop my whole life. I ask the Nigerian government to let me go, and I ask the United States government to assist me," Gambaryan said in his video message. "I need your help guys, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get out of this without your help. Please help."

Following Anjarwalla's escape, Gambaryan was transferred from the government guest house where they had both been detained to a correctional center and his cell phone was taken away from him. 

Sources familiar with his detention told Fox News Digital that the State Department’s involvement in his detainment appears to have been minimal and according to a Monday statement by Yuki, "U.S. Embassy staff were not granted access to visit him."


"I am begging the American government to do anything to get Tigran out and I am imploring the Nigerian government to realize that they are holding a completely innocent man," Yuki said. "They can still do the right thing and release him whilst they negotiate with the actual decision-makers at Binance for a solution to the issues which they are facing. 

"Please, my children just want their dad home and I just want my amazing husband back."

The State Department did not directly answer Fox News Digital’s questions about any ongoing negotiations with the Nigerian government but said, "We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas."

"When a U.S. citizen is detained overseas, the Department works to provide all appropriate assistance," they said. "Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment."

Fox News Digital could not reach the Nigerian Foreign Ministry or Binance for comment. 

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