Court discharges Binance executive, Gambaryan, in FIRS’s tax evasion charge

FIRS, Court


The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Friday discharged Tigran Gambaryan, a 39-year-old American, and fleeing Nadeem Anjarwalla from the tax evasion charges preferred against them and the cryptocurrency exchange platform, Binance by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

The court made the decision in a short ruling following an amended charges and discontinuance notice filed by the FIRS in view of a notice from Binance about its appointment of a Nigerian representative by the name Ayodele Omotilewa.

Recall that FIRS had on March 22, 2024 ,filed legal proceedings against the cryptocurrency exchange platform ,Gambaryan, and Nadeem, alleging tax evasion.

On May 17 2024, the FIRS amended its lawsuit, alleging Binance and Gambaryan allegedly failed to collect and remit various categories of taxes to the federation, particularly the Value Added Tax (VAT) and Company Income tax (CIT), as stipulated by Section 40 of the FIRS Establishment Act 2007 as amended.

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The Minister of Information, Idris Mohammed collaborated the allegations stating that the cryptocurrency trading platform, Binance, had a turnover of over $20 billion in Nigeria in 2023 alone.

At the resumed proceedings on Friday, counsel for Binance, T.J. Krukrubo SAN, told Justice Emeka Nwite that his client has forwarded the name of its official representative in Nigeria to the FIRS and to the court.

Counsel for the FIRS, Moses Idehu, confirmed same and asked the court’s permission to substitute all the previous charges with the fresh amended one dated June 13, 2024.

He told the court that the FIRS has “discontinued” its case against Gambaryan and Nadeem.

In FIRS’ fresh charge Binance is now listed as the sole defendant implying Gambaryan and Nadeem are no longer associated with its case.

In the charge, the Binance trading platform was accused of offering services ( in the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies and in the remittance and transfer of those assets) to Nigerians while failing to deduct the necessary Value Added Taxes(VAT), arising from its operations.

“That you BINANCE HOLDINGS LTD on or about the 1st February, 2024, in Abuja, FCT within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, whilst involved in the offering of services to subscribers on your trading platform, known as Binance did aid and abet those subscribers on your trading platform to unlawfully refuse to pay taxes, or neglect to pay those taxes and in so doing committed an offence contrary to and punishable under the provisions of S.94 of the Companies Income Tax Act (as amended),” Count 4 of the four-count charge reads.

However, Idehu urged the court to direct that the Binance representative from Nigeria should enter the dock and take his plea on behalf of the corporation he represents.

Krukrubo and Gambaryan’s legal team contended that Nigerian law does not mandate a representative of a company that is sued to stand inside a dock and take a plea.

They argued that a representative of a company that is sued may not need to attend proceedings and can even write a letter to the court in respect of the company’s position on a matter.

The defense seized the moment and urged the court to discharge Gambaryan and Nadeem from the FIRS case since a representative has been official sent to the proceedings.

What the judge said:

Nwite said on the issue of whether the representative of Binance should be in the dock, parties should file a written address on it so he can rule on it.

Consequently, he ruled that the “charges filed on March 22, 2024 and May 17, 2024 are hereby struck out.” He adjourned the matter to July 12 for plea taking and ordered the lawyers in the matter to file processes on whether the Nigerian representative should be in the dock or not.

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