Tigran Gambaryan Pleads Not Guilty to Money Laundering

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  • Tigran Gambaryan, Binance’s Financial Crime Compliance head arrested in Nigeria, has pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges at his first hearing
  • The judge remanded Gambaryan to a medium-security prison pending trial
  • Binance has decried his detention as “outrageous”

Tigran Gambaryan, the head of Binance’s Financial Crime Compliance team arrested in Nigeria in February, has pleaded no guilty to money laundering charges. Gambaryan offered his plea at the first hearing since his arrest, with the judge remanding him to a medium-security prison in Nigeria while awaiting trial. The judge seems to have been unimpressed by Gambaryan’s argument, made through his legal counsel, that he is not in a position of power when it comes to the activities of which he is being accused, arguments he will now have to make during trial.

Judge Unswayed by Defense Arguments

Gambaryan has had to wait almost six weeks to state his case to any degree following his arrest alongside that of Binance’s Africa manager, Nadeem Anjarwalla, who were detained when talks over Binance’s alleged acts of financial misconduct broke down. Anjarwalla escaped custody and Nigeria itself last month, leaving Gambaryan to face the music alone.

The pair are held responsible for what Nigerian authorities claim is money laundering and tax evasion conducted through Binance, even though Gambaryan in particular would appear to have nothing to do with such activities.

Gambaryan’s lawyer, Mark Mordi, argued this point during the hearing, but Justice Emeka Nwite rejected it, ruling that, in training Nigerian authorities during past trips to the country, Gambaryan has acted as Binance’s representative.

These sessions were referred to in a blog post from Binance last week:

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.

It isn’t clear how the Nigerian authorities have made the leap between this activity and being responsible for money laundering on Binance’s platform. Gambaryan will be held in Kuje Prison, a medium-security detention facility in the capital city of Abuja, until at least April 18 when a bail hearing is due to take place.

Detention is “Outrageous”

Binance, meanwhile, has decried the charges against Gambaryan as “meritless” in a comment made to DL News:

We are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained. Tigran has been dedicated to public service and fighting crime for most of his life. These charges against him are meritless. It’s outrageous that he would be remanded in a prison such as Kuje Correctional Facility.

Many interested parties believed that the charges would disappear and Gambaryan would be released long before any prison stays were necessary, but the fact that the situation has now escalated to the point of a forthcoming trial illustrates just how serious the situation has become.