Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court Abuja has declined to grant bail to Tigran Gambaryan, an executive of Binance Holdings Limited, citing concerns that he may flee if released on bail.

Gambaryan and the company were brought before the court on a five-count charge related to money laundering. Both defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.

During the bail hearing, Counsel to the Defendant, Mark Mordi, argued for bail, stressing the court’s authority to grant bail and impose conditions to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court. However, the Prosecution Counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, opposed the bail application, expressing apprehension that Gambaryan might attempt to flee.

Iheanacho highlighted Gambaryan’s recent attempt to obtain a new passport, which he claimed was stolen, as a suspicious act, particularly considering a colleague’s recent escape from custody.

Emphasizing Gambaryan’s dual American and Armenian citizenship and lack of ties to any Nigerian community, the prosecution urged the court to deny bail and instead remand him in EFCC custody for safety and to prevent flight risk.

In his ruling, Justice Nwite considered the severity of the charges and the likelihood of the defendant absconding if granted bail. He agreed with the prosecution’s arguments and denied bail, ordering an accelerated trial instead.

Following the ruling, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) called its first witness, a staff member of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to testify in the case.

The legal proceedings against Binance and its executives come amidst a crackdown by the Nigerian government on the cryptocurrency platform, aiming to strengthen the national currency, the naira. The government has filed multiple charges against Binance, including tax evasion, currency speculation, and money laundering totaling $35.4 million.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) alleges that over $26 billion was funneled through Binance without proper oversight, prompting concerns about financial transparency and regulatory compliance.

Nadeem Anjarwalla, another executive of Binance facing charges in Nigeria alongside Gambaryan, had previously escaped custody but was later apprehended in Kenya. Anjarwalla, a dual British and Kenyan citizen, served as Binance Africa’s Regional Manager and is implicated in the ongoing government investigation into Binance activities in Nigeria.