Court Orders Arraignment of Binance, 2 Executives

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Justice Emeka Nwite of a Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday ordered the arraignment of Binance Holdings Limited and two of its executives; Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, over alleged money laundering offences.

Justice Nwite made the order shortly after ruling that the service of the court documents against Binance on the second defendant, Gambaryan was proper.

According to the judge, contrary to the claim of the second defendant, he is duly qualified as an agent of Binance, within the court’s jurisdiction and to receive service of the suit on Binance.

The judge pointed out that evidence in his affidavit showed that Gambaryan is not only an employer of Binance, engaged in 2021, but was duly appointed to and actually attended a meeting on behalf of Binance with the federal government in February this year.

“I am of the view that there cannot be a better service of the court process of the first defendant on the second defendant. The service of the first defendant on the second defendant is a proper service and the second defendant is hereby ordered to take his plea.

Recall that, Gambaryan had last week objected to his arraignment on the grounds that the court documents have not been served on Binance who is the first defendant in the suit marked:FHC/ABJ/CR/138/2024, wherein the defendants were accused of money laundering to the tune of $35,400,000.

His lawyer, Mark Mordi, SAN, had argued that his client cannot be arraigned when the charge has not been served on the first defendant.

“It is manifestly clear that service under Section 123 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), is yet to be accomplished, adding that the prosecution has not shown, contrary to his claim that the suit was served on the 2nd defendant.

Besides, he had argued that the 2nd defendant did not fall into any of the category of persons qualified to receive service on behalf of Binance, in line with the provisions of Section 123 of the ACJA, having not been a Director, patron or company secretary.

Besides, Mordi argued that the 2nd defendant does not reside in Nigeria to qualify as an agent within jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, he submitted that the 1st defendant does not carry out business in Nigeria or have any footprint here so does not have an agent in the country.

He therefore urged the court to adjourned for the prosecution to do the needful before the 2nd defendant can be arraigned.

However, EFCC’s lawyer, Ekele Iheanocho, had disagreed insisting that arraignment of the second defendant can go ahead without service on 1st defendant, adding that a not guilty plea can be entered in favour of the 1st defendant.

He disclosed that the prosecution had served Gambaryan with the court process on behalf of Binance, but he refused to accept service.

Justice Nwite after taking arguments from parties adjourned till April 8, to decide whether Gambaryan can be arraigned without service of the court papers on Binance.

In the charge dated and filed on March 28 by the anti-graft agency, the trio is being accused of money laundering to the tune of $35,400,000.

While Binance is the first defendant, Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance Regional Manager for Africa, are second and third respondents respectively.

The defendants in count one were charged with operating a specialised business of another financial institution in Abuja without a valid license between January 2023 and January 2024.

The offence is alleged to violate Sections 57(1) and (2) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, 2020, and is punishable under Section 57(5) of the same Act.

Both Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were arrested late February and were held in custody until March 22, when Anjarwalla was said to have escaped from custody and from Nigeria.

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