Money Laundering: EFCC stalls trial of Binance executives


Trial of Binance Holdings Ltd and its two executives could not proceed Thursday at the Federal high court, Abuja at the instance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The matter was scheduled for hearing but the anti-graft agency was yet to serve the charge and the proof of evidence on the defendants detained in prison.

It is trite in law that suspects in a criminal trial should be made aware of the charge against him and be given time to study it for his response.

Although the court ordered that the affected defendant, Tigran Gambaryan, should be personally served in court, the trial judge had to adjourn the case following a request by him (the defendant) for time to study the charge and the accompanying documents.

 BAR & BENCH WATCH reports that the EFCC had preferred a five-count charge against the crypto-currency firm and its top officials, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla (now at large), as the first and third defendants, respectively.

They were alleged to have conspired to conceal the origin of the financial proceeds of their alleged unlawful activities in Nigeria, including $35,400,000.

The commission accused them of committing an offence contrary to section 21 (a) and punishable under Section 18(3) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022, among other things.

However, Mr Anjarwalla escaped from lawful custody on March 22 and fled Nigeria for Kenya before arraignment.

The defendants were arraigned on April 8 but pleaded not guilty to the counts.

Gambaryan was ordered to be remanded in Kuje prison custody.

Through his lawyer, Mark Mordi, he applied for bail on April 23, which the EFCC opposed and the ruling was fixed for May 17.

Meanwhile, when the matter was called on Thursday, Mr Iheanacho said the case was scheduled for trial commencement.

“The matter is for commencement of trial and we have two of our witnesses in court today, my lord,” Mr Iheanacho told the court.

But Tonye Krukrubo, counsel for Binance Ltd, objected to Mr Iheanacho’s submission.

Mr Krukrubo told the court that his client had not been served with the court documents.

“If we are here for trial, can my learned friend confirm if the first defendant has been served with any process?” he said.

The EFCC lawyer responded that all the defendants, including the first defendant (Binance), had been duly served and that additional proof of evidence was served on the first defendant through the second defendant (Mr Gambaryan) in accordance with the law.

But Mr Krukrubo insisted that he had not been served.

He said a suspect facing criminal proceedings should be afforded the opportunity to defend himself.

Mr Iheanacho, on his part, restated that the company was served through Mr Gambaryan, its agent in Nigeria.

He said the proof of service could be confirmed in the court record.

However, the proof of service could not be found in the court record when the judge directed the registrar to look through the file.

The judge then summoned the bailiff to give an account of the service of the documents.

The bailiff explained that on April 30, he was at Kuje Prison to effect the service of the documents on Binance through Mr Gambaryan, but he was not allowed to see him.

He said all efforts made were unsuccessful.

The bailiff told the court that the documents were still in his care.

The judge then ordered Mr Iheanacho to serve Mr Krukrubo with the extra copy of the documents in his possession in the open court.

Mr Krukrubo applied for an adjournment to study the documents before the trial commences.

The judge, who adjourned the matter until May 17 for trial commencement, advised EFCC to be diligent in the trial.

“It behoves on you, as prosecution, to do all within your power in the trial because I am not going to entertain any delay in this trial again,” the judge said.

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