Northern Nigerian Breaking News

Alleged tax evasion: Arraignment of Binance, Gambaryan suffers setback

The arraignment of Binance Holdings Limited and its executive, Tigran Gambaryan, by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), on Wednesday, suffered a setback at a Federal High Court, Abuja.

The matter, which was scheduled for arraignment before Justice Emeka Nwite, could not proceed due to the absence of Gambaryan in court.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Gambaryan, who is the 2nd defendant in the four-count charge, is being remanded at the Kuje Correctional Centre.

The FIRS had, in the amended four-count charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/115/2024, dated and filed on May 17, sued Binance, Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla as 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.

In the fresh charge, though Anjarwalla was listed as 3rd defendant, the tax agency included the inscription; “at large” immediately after his name.

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Justice Nwite had, on Friday, rejected Gambaryan’s application for bail in another charge filed against him and the company by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The judge, who held that the affidavit evidence presented by the EFCC against the defendant of being a flight risk was overwhelming, ordered him to be remanded in prison until the hearing and determination of the money laundering charge.

When the matter was called on Wednesday in the case filed by the FIRS, counsel to the parties were in court except Gambaryan.

FIRS lawyer, Moses Ideho, told the court that Gambaryan was supposed to be produced from custody.

“But I don’t know the reason he is not here. We have been trying to get to members of the correctional centre but we have been unable to get why they are not here.

“The correctional centre has the right to bring him to court,” he said.

He prayed the court for a stand-down of the case.

Chukwuka Ikwuazo, SAN, who appeared for Gambaryan, said they had been in court since 9am and did not see any reason the matter would be stood down.

He said the prosecution cannot say he did not know the whereabouts of the defendant, who was under the custody of the Federal Government and which he represented in court.

Ideho further urged the court to stand down the matter in order to confirm if the prison officers were on their way or why they were not in court.

But counsel for Binance (1st defendant), Tonye Krukrubo, SAN, who disagreed with Ideho’s plea for a stand-down, said he appeared under protest.

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He said the government lawyer was to blame because he ought to have known that the defendant would not be brought to court.

Responding, Ideho said on the last adjourned date, though the defendants would have been arraigned, the defence counsel sought an adjournment.

“It is unfortunate he is not here my lord and it is not my fault,” he said

The lawyer then sought an adjournment, pledging that the agency would communicate with the officers of the correctional centre to ensure that Gambaryan was produced early in court.

Ikwuazo therefore called the attention of the court to the amended charge filed by the FIRS.

The senior lawyer said Ideho informed the court on the last adjourned date that a fresh charge was filed.

He said though he did not see the latest charge then, Ikwuazo said Anjarwalla, who is being listed as 3rd defendant, he still being named with a tag, “at large” in the amended charge.

He said he felt this should be brought to the notice of the court because it could delay the trial.

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“Under our law, when a defendant is named, he should be served the charge,” he said.

Krukrubo added that “it is a constitutional requirement that a charge be read to a suspect in the language he understands.

“Therefore, the charge cannot be read to a ghost.”

In his response, Ideho promised to do the needful as directed by the court.

Justice Nwite adjourned the matter until June 14 for arraignment.


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