Court orders Binance to release names, information of Nigerians trading on Cryptocurrency platform

A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered Binance Holdings Limited to provide information on all persons trading on the platform from Nigeria to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Emeka Nwite granted the interim order after ruling on the ex parte motion moved by the lawyer representing the anti-corruption body, Ekele Iheanacho.

“The applicant’s application dated and filed 29th February, 2024, is hereby granted as prayed. That an order of this honourable court is hereby made directing the operators of Binance to provide the commission with comprehensive data/information relating to all persons from Nigeria trading on its platform,” the judge ordered.

The interim order enabled the anti-graft agency to unravel the alleged money laundering and terrorism financing on Binance, a cryptocurrency exchange platform.

The ex parte motion marked FHC/ABJ/CS/259/2024 was brought pursuant to Sections 6(b), (h), (I), 7(1), (a)(2), and 38 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Establishment Act, 2004 and Section 15 of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022 (as amended) and the inherent powers of the court.

In the affidavit in support of the motion deposed to by Hamma Bello, an operative of the EFCC, he said he was attached to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the commission domiciled in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

Bello noted that following the inauguration of the Technical Committee on Currency Stability and Forex Manipulation by the ONSA, the SIT “received an intelligence stating the nefarious activities (money laundering and terrorism financing) on Binance,” a cryptocurrency exchange platform.

Bello added that upon receipt of the intelligence, the team began investigating by carrying out surveillance of the activities of the platform.

He stated, “The team uncovered users who have been using the platform for price discovery, confirmation, and market manipulation, which has caused tremendous distortions in the market, resulting in the Naira losing its values against other currencies.

“That the damage the platform has caused was clearly explained to the operators of the platform and they were requested to delist the Naira and avail the ONSA on the activities of the Nigerians on their platform.

“That from the information afforded to the team by Binance shows that the total trading volume from Nigeria in 2023 alone stood at $21.6 million.

“Attached and marked as Exhibit EFCC 1 is a copy of the document from Binance to the ONSA stating this fact amongst others. That the commission will ensure that investigation is conducted within such reasonable time.”

Bello, who said the matter was of utmost urgent public interest, said the data provided would enable the commission to accomplish its investigation activities.

He said it was in the interest of justice to grant the application, as refusing the request would largely hamper the commission’s investigation.

It was reported last week that the Nigerian Government had pleaded before a chief magistrate’s court in Abuja to extend the detention of two Binance executives arrested by the country’s National Security Adviser.

The Binance executives identified as Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Binance’s head of financial crime compliance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan who is African regional manager for the cryptocurrency trading firm, flew to Nigeria following the country’s decision to ban several cryptocurrency trading websites, but they were detained on arrival on February 26.

Reuters reported that the court order granting the EFCC permission to detain the Binance executives for two weeks to facilitate investigations expired last Tuesday and the duo had not been released.

They had also not been charged with any crime.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the EFCC had asked the chief magistrate’s court to extend their detention while investigations continue, said a person involved in the case but not authorised to speak to the press.

The two executives’ lawyers maintained that there were no grounds for keeping them in detention, the person added.

Another source privy to the incident said a hearing was set for March 20 when the court can either dismiss or grant the extension request on the same day or later.

The spokespersons for the EFCC and the Office of the National Security Adviser, which is also involved in the probe, did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

The crackdown on cryptocurrency trading in Nigeria had been linked to the devaluation of the country’s currency, Naira.

The Nigerian authorities last Tuesday asked Binance to share data on its 100 top users in Nigeria for possible probe and charge. But the company kept mum on this request.

Anjarwalla’s wife, Elahe, told Reuters that the two men were being kept in a guarded house in the capital Abuja and she had been able to speak to her husband on the phone at least once a day, although he can only speak in the presence of a guard.

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