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EFCC detains her officials implicated in escape of Binance executive

BY EZE NWAFOR

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is currently detaining two of its staff alleged to have been involved in the escape of Bianance Executive in the custody of the Office of National Security Adviser, ONSA.

A source in the office of ONSA, told our correspondent that the detention of the two EFCC officials was sequel to the investigation of the ONSA, which allegedly implicated the two personnel of the Commission.

The two personnel were attached to the ONSA, and always resumed duty at the office of National Security Adviser.

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Recall that last week, ONSA handed case to the EFCC, for more discreet investigation and possible prosecution of the online digital financial giants.

The other military personnel and staff of the ONSA are still being grilled at the office of the ONSA.

On Friday, 22 March 2024, Anjarwalla escaped from the lawful custody popularly known as ‘Safe House’ in Abuja using fake international passport.

According to the Office of the National Security Adviser, who confirmed the escape of Nadeem ANJARWALLA, a suspect in the ongoing criminal probe into the activities of Binance in Nigeria escaped from lawful custody on Friday, 22 March 2024.

The Head, Strategic Communication Office of the National Security Adviser, Zakari U. Mijinyawa, in a statement said upon receiving the report of the suspect’s escape, the office took immediate steps, in conjunction with relevant security agencies , MDAs, as well as the international community, to apprehend the suspect.

He explained that security agencies were working with Interpol for an international arrest warrant on the suspect.

“Preliminary investigation shows that Mr Anjarwalla fled Nigeria using a smuggled passport.

Mijinyawa stated that the personnel responsible for the custody of the suspect have been arrested, and a thorough investigation is ongoing to unravel the circumstances that led to his escape from lawful detention.

According to him, the suspect is under the watchlist of the Federal Government of Nigeria, like other governments around the world.

Nigeria government is investigating money laundering and terrorism financing transactions perpetrated on the Binance currency exchange platform.

“Until his escape, Nadeem Anjarwalla, is both British and Kenyan national and serving as Binance’s Africa regional manager.

“The suspect escaped while under a 14-day remand order by a court in Nigeria. He was scheduled to appear before the court again on 4th April 2024.

“We urge the Nigerian public and the international community to provide whatever information they have that can assist law enforcement agencies to apprehend the suspect.” Mijinyawa said.

Following the escape, the presidency transferred the case to the EFCC with the other suspects including the EFCC personnel indicted by the investigation of the ONSA.

All the suspects are hibernating in the EFCC custody at the corporate headquarters of the Commission at Jabi.

Anjarwalla and his co-worker, were arraigned on Thursday, April 4, in absentia despite the fact that the EFCC, FBI, ONSA, and other international anti-corruption agencies are on the hunt against the escapee suspect.

Also arraigned on Thursday was his accomplice, Tigran Gambaryan and they were arraigned on five count charge bordering on money laundering case and tax evasion.

When the case came up for hearing on Thursday, Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja, adjourned arraignment of Binance Holdings Limited to April 8, 2024, for a ruling on the service of charges on the company.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is prosecuting Binance alongside Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla on five –count charges bordering on tax evasion, currency speculation and money laundering to the tune of $34,400,000 (Thirty-four Million, Four Hundred Thousand United States Dollars).

At Thursday’s sitting, defence counsel Mark Mordi SAN raised an objection against the arraignment of the second defendant without the prosecution properly serving the charges on the first defendant. He, however, noted that his client was not an agent, director or representative of the company in the country, and as such could not be serve on behalf of the first defendant.

“My Lord, it is a joint charge, the prosecution is supposed to have served the first defendant the charge and having not accomplished service to the first defendant, I don’t see how the arraignment can go my Lord”

“He’s not a Director, not a partner, and not even the Secretary. He does not reside in Nigeria to qualify as an agent within jurisdiction, he has no physical footprint here, so he’s not an agent here. There’s no proof of service in the court’s file, so the prosecution cannot assume that he has been served through my client”, he said.

But counsel to the EFCC, Ekele Iheanacho, disagreed with him, and noted that the second respondent is a representative of the first defendant in the country, adding that the charge was served on him on behalf of the company.

“My Lord Section 123 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act states that on effecting service; ‘the person effecting service of a summons shall effect it by delivering it on: (a) an individual, to him personally; or (b) a firm or corporation; (i) to one of the partners, (ii) to a director, (iii) to the secretary, (iv) to the chief agent within the jurisdiction, (v) by leaving it at the principal place of business in Nigeria of the firm or corporation, or (vi) to anyone having, at the time of service, control of the business of the firm. So, my Lord, the law allows that the service can be effected to the chief agent within the jurisdiction, and in this case, the second defendant is the only physical agent within the jurisdiction”, he said.

Arguing further, he pointed out that “the law does not command impossibility. A party who has no physical presence in Nigeria but has a physical agent in Nigeria can properly be served through that agent. He is the only physical agent we have, hence we served him on behalf of the first defendant though he refused the service, but it is in our proof of evidence that we served him”.

Iheanacho stressed “Section 124 of the ACJA refers to obtain service for an individual and not for a corporation, so my Lord the service of the first defendant which he refused to accept, is a proper service. And again my Lord, the counsel to the second defendant cannot be speaking on behalf of the first defendant, so all the information from him is to be disregarded because they lack merit”.

Iheanacho thereafter said it was not the position of the counsel to the second defendant to argue for the first defendant, he therefore urged the court to enter a plea for the first defendant and continue with the proceedings.

After listening to all the submissions of the counsels, Justice Nwite adjourned ruling till April 8, 2024.

Meanwhile, the two EFCC officials being detained at the Commission’s facility are still facing interrogation and be charged for aiding and abetting in the escape of Nadeem ANJARWALLA.

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