We were asked for a bribe to settle Nigerian case — Binance CEO

Adebari Oguntoye
Adebari Oguntoye
Richard Teng

Binance, a popular cryptocurrency platform, says some unknown persons in Nigeria demanded huge payments in digital currency to make their problems in the country “go away.”

Richard Teng, the firm’s chief executive officer (CEO), made the claim in a blog post  on Tuesday.

On February 28, the federal government detained two top executives of Binance as part of a probe bordering on illegal operations in the country and foreign exchange rate manipulations.

The detained executives included Nadeem Anjarwalla, a 37-year-old British-Kenyan and Binance’s regional manager for Africa; and Tigran Gambaryan, a 39-year-old US citizen and Binance’s head of financial crime compliance.

Nigeria’s government, on March 25, filed a criminal charge against Binance for “tax evasion”—the same period Anjarwalla fled detention.

Speaking on Binance’s issues with the Nigerian government, Teng detailed how the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange tried to engage with the authorities, including a meeting on January 8 in Abuja, where it was confronted with criminal allegations.

Teng said that despite multiple requests, Binance has still not received details of the allegations, “and our employees, therefore, inquired if there was an opportunity to submit our responses in writing and in the absence of a public hearing.”.

“There were a number of reasons for that, including the sensitivity of the information and getting the opportunity to see the allegations in full and prepare a thorough substantive response. The meeting ended with the chair confirming they would consider the matter and revert through Binance’s local counsel.

“However, as our employees were leaving the venue, they were approached by unknown persons who suggested to them that they make a payment in settlement of the allegations.

“Later that day, our local counsel—representing us at that time—was summoned by the Committee through someone purporting to be their agent, who relayed the Committee’s terms and instructed our local counsel to advise us.

“Counsel reported back that he had been presented with a demand for a significant payment in cryptocurrency to be paid in secret within 48 hours to make these issues go away and that our decision was expected by the morning. Our team grew increasingly concerned about their safety in Nigeria and immediately departed,” he said.

Teng said the payment request was declined “via our counsel, not viewing it to be a legitimate settlement offer.”

The CEO said Binance clarified that it would engage in settlement negotiations on the condition that the relevant petition or the details of all allegations were seen.

In addition, he said any settlement “must be official, recorded in writing, and signed by all relevant parties.”

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