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US May Exert Pressure on Nigeria to Release Binance Executive

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For over three months, Tigran Gambaryan, a high-ranking compliance officer at Binance and former federal agent, has been detained in Nigeria on charges of money laundering and tax evasion.

His detention has sparked an outcry among U.S. politicians, who are calling on President Joe Biden and other top officials to intervene and bring him home.

In a letter dated June 4, twelve U.S. lawmakers addressed President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger D. Carstens, urging immediate action to secure Gambaryan’s release.

The letter, which was sourced and published by journalist Eleanor Terrett on Twitter, highlights the dire conditions Gambaryan is facing and the questionable nature of the charges against him.

“We fear for his life. Immediate action is essential to ensure his safety and preserve his life. We must act swiftly before it is too late,” the letter states. The politicians argue that Gambaryan’s detention is “wrongful” and that the charges are “baseless,” part of a coercion tactic by Nigerian authorities aimed at extorting Binance.

Before joining Binance as the head of financial crime compliance, Gambrayan served as a federal agent at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for over a decade.

During his tenure, he led some of the most significant cyber investigations in U.S. history, resulting in the seizure of $4.725 billion in illicit funds.

His supporters said he moved to Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, and continued his fight against financial crime, ensuring that the platform adhered to stringent compliance standards.

It was in this capacity that Gambaryan found himself traveling to Nigeria on February 26, at the invitation of the Nigerian government, to discuss Binance’s compliance issues in the country.

Gambaryan’s supporters say the initial meetings in Nigeria were professional, but the atmosphere soon turned hostile. After two rounds of discussions, he was however detained.

Armed guards escorted him to his hotel room, where he was forced to surrender his passport. He was then taken to a government-owned house, referred to as the “Guest House,” and held without communication for five days.

Gambaryan was arrested and arraigned at the same time as British-Kenyan Nadeem Anjarwalla, who later escaped from the Abuja guest house where the pair was detained.

On March 12, a court order allowing Nigerian authorities to hold Gambaryan expired. Despite this, he remained in detention.

On March 20, the Chief Court 1 of the Magistrate Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja acknowledged that the remand order had not been extended but still adjourned the matter to April 5. During this period, there was no legal basis for Gambaryan’s continued detention.

Following the expiration of the court order, Gambaryan was charged with several crimes as a proxy for his employer, Binance, and transferred to Kuje Prison.

The letter from U.S. politicians details the appalling conditions Gambaryan in which he is allegedly held.

He has tested positive for malaria, yet a court order to transfer him to a private hospital for treatment has not been fully complied with. During a court appearance on May 23, Gambaryan’s deteriorating health was evident.

He could not stand on his own and ultimately collapsed in the courtroom.

The U.S. politicians are pressing for Gambaryan’s case to be transferred to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

They argue that Gambaryan’s detention qualifies as a wrongful detainment under the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act.

“This is a coercion tactic by the Nigerian government to extort his employer, Binance,” the letter states. “Mr. Gambaryan’s health and well-being are in danger, and we fear for his life. Immediate action is essential to ensure his safety and preserve his life.”

The legislators emphasize the need for swift and decisive action to prevent further deterioration of Gambaryan’s health and to secure his release.

They point out that Gambaryan has not been allowed to meet with his legal team without the presence of Nigerian authorities and armed guards, further complicating his defense.

The congressional pressure on the Biden administration underscores the growing international attention on Gambaryan’s case.

The Biden administration has yet to issue a formal response to the letter, but the increasing scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers signals a potential diplomatic intervention in the ongoing saga surrounding Gambaryan’s detention in Nigeria.

The congressional pressure on the Biden administration regarding Tigran Gambaryan’s case reflects a broader trend of increasing international attention and concern over the situation.

At the heart of the matter is the perceived violation of human rights and due process. The U.S. legislators may ramp up pressure on the administration citing the harsh treatment he has reportedly endured while in detention, the denial of bail, failure to appear in court under, and restrictions on meeting with legal counsel.

The longer Gambaryan’s detention persists without adequate resolution, the greater the risk of escalating tensions between the U.S. and Nigeria, as well as potential damage to bilateral relations.

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