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‘Nigerian Officials Demanded $150 Million Bribe in Cryptocurrency,’ Binance CEO Says

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GEORGE TOWN, Malta – Richard Teng, CEO of Binance, the prominent cryptocurrency trading platform, has alleged that unknown individuals attempted to solicit a bribe from its executives, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, in exchange for dropping charges prior to their detention by Nigerian authorities on February 28, 2024.

In a detailed blog post on Binance’s website released Tuesday, May 7, 2024, Teng described a tumultuous interaction with Nigerian officials, culminating in a bribery attempt.

The executives had traveled to Nigeria to engage with authorities amid a crackdown on cryptocurrency platforms, attending a key meeting in Abuja on January 8 with a committee of about 30 agencies.

According to Teng, during the meeting, the committee demonstrated a serious stance, threatening arrest warrants and travel restrictions against the Binance team.

It later emerged that the committee did not possess the authority to issue arrest warrants. This meeting was initially postponed to January 11.

As the Binance team was leaving the January 8 meeting, they were approached by individuals who suggested making a secret payment in cryptocurrency to settle the allegations against them.

Binance senior executives, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla
Binance senior executives, Tigran Gambaryan (right) and Nadeem Anjarwalla

“Later that day, our local counsel was summoned by someone claiming to be an agent of the committee, who presented a demand for a significant payment to be made within 48 hours to resolve the issues,” Teng recounted.

The demand was declined by Binance through their counsel, and concerned for their safety, the team swiftly left Nigeria.

Subsequently, both Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were detained by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), and their passports were confiscated.

The situation escalated when Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan and the regional manager for Africa at Binance, managed to escape from custody.

The Nigerian government has since been in talks with Interpol to secure an international arrest warrant for his extradition.

Changpeng Zhao, Binance The Trent
Changpeng Zhao, Co-Founder & CEO, Binance. | Ben McShane/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

Meanwhile, in the United States of America, Changpeng Zhao, the founder of Binance, was sentenced to four months in prison on Tuesday, April 30, 2024, after pleading guilty to charges of failing to implement an effective anti-money laundering program.

The sentence was delivered in a U.S. federal court in Seattle and was considerably less severe than the three years proposed by prosecutors.

Before his sentencing, Zhao, commonly referred to by his initials CZ, expressed his remorse in a letter to the judge. “Words cannot explain how deeply I regret my choices that result in me being before the Court,” Zhao wrote. “Rest assured that it will never happen again.”

As part of a broader settlement with the federal government last fall, Binance agreed to pay over $4 billion in fines and penalties.

The company acknowledged its involvement in anti-money laundering infractions, unlicensed money transmitting, and violations of sanctions.

Zhao, 47, who boasts a personal fortune near $40 billion according to Bloomberg, has agreed to resign from his position as CEO and will personally pay $200 million in fines.

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