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Detained Binance Execs Sue Nigeria for Rights Violations

Two Binance executives have sued the Nigerian government following their detention by the African nation.

The cryptocurrency execs filed suit last week against Nigeria’s national security adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, and country’s Economic Financial Crimes Commission for violating their fundamental human rights, Coindesk reported Friday (March 29), citing local media reports.

In their court filings, Tigran Gambaryan, head of financial crime compliance at Binance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, regional manager for Africa, pleaded with the Federal High Court in Abuja to order the agencies to release them, return their passports and apologize publicly.

The executives were picked up by Nigerian national security officers upon landing in the country in late February after authorities said that Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, was operating in the country illegally.

Central Bank Governor Olayemi Cardoso had cited Binance during a press conference in January after introducing a record interest rate hike to boost the Nigerian currency.

Lambasting “illicit flows,” Cardoso said $26 billion has passed via Binance in Nigeria “from sources and users who we cannot adequately identify.”

Other officials have said that crypto companies have been hampering Nigeria’s exchange rate and supplanting the central bank, a situation that has led the country to ask its telecom companies to block platforms like Binance and Coinbase.

The case took a dramatic turn last week when Anjarwalla — a citizen of both the U.K. and Kenya — reportedly managed to flee custody after guards escorted him to a mosque for prayer.  

Both Anjarwalla and Gambaryan were named alongside Binance when Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) recently accused the company of nonpayment of value-added tax and company income tax, failure to file tax returns and complicity in helping customers to evade taxes through its platform.

The case is happening amid a resurgence in the cryptocurrency market — with bitcoin at record highs and meme coins making a comeback — that has opened the door to crypto scams, as PYMNTS wrote last week.

A new report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) finds that Americans made more than 43,000 complaints about cryptocurrency scams last year, as losses to crypto-based frauds and scams climbed to $3.9 billion, up 53% year over year.

Scam factories, where criminals traffic tens of thousands of individuals, confine them to compounds and force them to conduct online scams targeting unsuspecting foreign nationals, are a driving force behind the rise in crypto scams,” PYMNTS wrote.