Binance’s Top Crypto Crime Investigator Is Being Detained In Nigeria

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Binance executives Tigran Gambaryan, a former crypto-focused US federal agent, and a second Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, have been detained against their will by Nigerian officials in connection with the crypto crackdown by the Nigerian government.

According to reports, they’ve been held in Abuja, Nigeria without passports for two weeks and counting. Neither has been informed of any criminal charge against them, according to their families. Instead, the two men appear to have been swept up in Nigeria’s broad actions to ban cryptocurrency exchanges amid a drastic devaluation of the country’s national currency, according to the Financial Times, which was first to report the two executives’ detention without identifying them.

A short background details of Tigran Gambaryan, one of the detainees

Tigran Gambaryan is a US citizen. In his years as a US federal agent, Tigran Gambaryan helped to lead landmark investigations that took down cryptocurrency thieves and money launderers, dark-web drug dealers, and even crypto-funded child exploitation networks.

Before taking up the responsibility at Binance, Gambaryan had become well known in the law enforcement world for his record of pioneering high-impact cryptocurrency cases as an agent in the US Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigations (IRS-CI) division. From 2014 to 2017 alone, for instance, Gambaryan led the investigation into two corrupt federal agents who stole cryptocurrency from the Silk Road dark-web drug market and sold law enforcement intel to its creator, worked to track down 650,000 bitcoins stolen from the Mt. Gox exchange, helped develop a crypto tracing technique to find the server running the massive AlphaBay crime market, and had a hand in the takedown of the Welcome to Video crypto-based child sexual abuse materials network.

Since February 26, Gambaryan, now leads Binance’s criminal investigations team.

Gambaryan, and Anjarwalla, arrived in Abuja on February 25, following the Nigerian government’s invitation to address its ongoing dispute with Binance. They met with Nigerian officials the next day, hoping to speak to the government about its order to the country’s telecoms to block access to Binance and other cryptocurrency exchanges, which regulators hold responsible for devaluing its official currency, the naira, and for enabling “illicit flows” of funds.

Soon after Gambaryan and Anjarwalla’s first meeting with the Nigerian government, however, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were taken to their hotels, told to pack their things, and moved into a “guesthouse” run by Nigeria’s National Security Agency, according to their families. Officials seized their passports and have since held the two men at the house against their will for two weeks and counting.

A little background check on Nadeem Anjarwalla, the second detainee

Anjarwalla, an Oxford- and Stanford-educated government affairs specialist for Binance, joined the crypto company a year ago. Anjarwalla is a dual citizen of the UK and Kenya

Any foreign interventions lately?

According to their respective families Gambaryan has been visited by a US State Department official and Anjarwalla by a representative of the UK foreign office,but Nigerian government guards have also remained present in those meetings, preventing them from speaking privately.

Binance company, when contacted by WIRED says, “While it is inappropriate for us to comment on the substance of the claims at this time, we can say that we are working collaboratively with Nigerian authorities to bring Nadeem and Tigran back home safely to their families,” a Binance spokesperson tells WIRED. “They are professionals with the highest integrity and we will provide them all the support we can. We trust there will be a swift resolution to this matter.”

How are their families going about this matter

Gambaryan’s wife, Yuki, points to the track record to argue that her husband has earned the support of the US government, which she says now needs to help negotiate his freedom. “He’s done so much good for this country throughout his career,” she says. “I believe it’s his turn to get the same amount of support from his country.” She says she’s not aware of what exactly the State Department or the US embassy in Abuja has done so far to extricate him.

While Anjarwalla’s wife, Elahe, writes in a statement that her husband is a “middle management employee of Binance with no decision-making authority.” She adds that Anjarwalla, a Muslim, is being held during Ramadan; that their infant son had his first tooth appear in the past two weeks; and that their baby will reach his first birthday next week. “Nadeem is a loving husband and father. He is my best friend,” she says. “All I want is for Nadeem to be allowed to come back home to us.”

 

Also read,

Binance CEO Resigns After Pleading Guilty To Money Laundering.

 

 

 

 

featured image credits: Techcabal