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US lawmakers seek release of Binance executive detained in Nigeria



Lawmakers in the United States of America have requested President Joe Biden expedite the release of Binance Executive Tigran Gambaryan, who has been detained in Nigeria for over three months on allegations of money laundering and tax evasion.

According to a letter dated June 4, obtained by PUNCH Online on Wednesday, the lawmakers addressed Biden, Secretary Antony Blinken, and Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, Roger Carstens, emphasising the need for urgent intervention.

The 12 lawmakers who signed the letter argued that Gambaryan was being held unjustly, stating that the allegations against him were “baseless” and represented a coercive tactic to pressure Binance.

“Clearly, Mr. Gambaryan is a U.S. citizen being wrongfully detained by the Government of Nigeria per 22 U.S.C. 1741 (a)(9) and (10). On behalf of Mr. Gambaryan, his family, and concerned Americans, we, the undersigned, urgently request and strongly encourage the transfer of his case to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs,” part of the letter reads.

Lawmakers who signed the letter include Rich McCormick, a member of Congress; Michael T. McCaul, House Foreign Affairs Committee; Barry Loudermilk, a member of Congress; Austin Scott, a Member of Congress; Keith Self, a member of Congress; and others.

In February, the Nigerian government arrested Gambaryan, a US citizen, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, on suspicion of money laundering and tax evasion.

Anjarwalla evaded arrest and fled to Kenya, while his colleague remained in the Kuje Correctional Centre in Abuja.

Gambaryan’s health took a turn for the worse when he collapsed in a Federal High Court in Abuja during his money laundering trial.

The incident happened just as Judge Emeka Nwite was about to resume proceedings.

The lawmakers lamented that the conditions of Gambaryan’s detention have been severe due to the notoriously harsh conditions in Kuje prison.

“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. We must act swiftly before it is too late,” they stated.

The lawmakers asserted that Gambaryan’s detention meets the criteria for being “wrongfully detained by a foreign government,” as defined in the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act.

They requested that his case be transferred to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

In addition, they emphasised the need for swift action to ensure the Binance executive’s safety.

Last month, Chief Executive Officer of Binance, Richard Teng, in a blog post, described the detention of Gambaryan by the Nigerian government as ‘unjust’ and that it was a “dangerous precedent” for international businesses.

Teng also claimed that despite Binance’s repeated efforts at constructive engagement and cooperation with Nigerian authorities, Gambaryan remained in detention for ‘spurious’ reasons.

The CEO declared that inviting a company’s mid-level employees for collaborative policy meetings, only to detain them, had set a dangerous new precedent for all companies worldwide.

“The message from the Nigerian government is clear: we must detain an innocent, mid-level employee, a former U.S. federal agent, and place him in a dangerous prison to control Binance.

“This regrettable turn of events contradicts the spirit of cooperation and transparency that Binance has consistently demonstrated in its interactions with the regulatory authorities,” Teng added.

The Federal Government stepped up its cryptocurrency crackdown after it banned peer-to-peer trading last month.

The Central Bank of Nigeria initially prohibited financial institutions from providing services to cryptocurrency businesses in 2021 but reversed this decision in December 2023.

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Double taxation: Ogun govt. moves to harmonise taxes, levies



Ogun Government says it is working round the clock to ensure harmonisation of taxes and levies to reduce incidence of double taxation that may affect the revenue base of businesses in the state.

Commissioner for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Adebola Sofela, said this during a visit to the Managing Director of Nestle Nigeria, Mr Wassim Elhusseini, on Friday.

Sofela said that his visit was occasioned by the need to boost the existing relationship between the state government and its various stakeholders and to further collaborate and share ideas on areas of common interest.

He expressed the Gov. Dapo Abiodun-led administration’s commitment to capacity building at all levels.

As a practical demonstration of this, the commissioner said that that technical schools across the state were being upgraded to ensure companies that did not have any gap in power to fill the technical needs.

Sofela, who was accompanied by top management staff members of the ministry, stated that the present administration had improved land administration system to enable investors get title documents without delay in order to leverage for financing.

He said that government had been creating new industrial clusters to take care of the new influx of investors and prepare for the future.

The commissioner appealed to the various companies across the three senatorial districts to consider the qualified residents of the state for employment, as part of efforts to promote their relationship with host communities.

“We are working to ensure harmonisation of taxes and levies to reduce the incidence of double taxation.

“The governor is particularly interested in creating an enabling environment for business to thrive, considering government’s huge investments in security and infrastructure,” he said.

In his remarks, the Managing Director of the firm, said that 80 per cent of his company’s investments were domiciled in Ogun.

According to Elhusseini, the state government is in the right direction with its business-friendly policies.

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Reps committee to probes appointments of NASRDA, RMRDC DGs



The House of Representatives on Friday unveiled plans to investigate the appointments of Director General of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. Martins Ike-Muonso.

The committee will also investigate the appointment of the Director-General of National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) Dr Mathew Adepoju.

This is contained in a statement issued by the Chairman of the committee, Rep. Olaide .

The committee chairman said that a six-member panel headed by Rep. Abiodun Akinlade had been inaugurated to carry out the probe.

He said both DGs were recently appointed by the Minister of Innovation Science and Technology, Chief Uche Nnanji.

“The panel is to look at the procedure of the appointments qualification and the compliance with the relevant laws and regulations that established both agencies.

“The panel is to invite the Minister of Innovation Science and Technology, the Secretary to the Federal Government, Head of Service and both DGs amongst others.

“The panel has two weeks to within which to submit its report,” he said.

The chairman promised that the assignment will be free and fair saying that the aim is not to witch hunt anyone but to put the records straight.

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Tinubu to observe Eid-el-Kabir in Lagos



President Bola Tinubu will depart Abuja for Lagos state on Friday ahead of the Eid-el-Kabir celebration.

This is contained in a statement by Chief Ajuri Ngelale, Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity, in Abuja.

The statement said the President would observe Eid-el-Kabir in Lagos, where he would also spend the Sallah holidays.

“The President will mark the occasion in prayers and reflection on advancing the transformation of Nigeria in line with his Renewed Hope Agenda,” said the statement.

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