Court Adjourns trial in Binance, two others alleged tax evasion till April 8

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From Lateef Taiwo

The Abuja Federal High Court sitting in Thursday, adjourned the scheduled arraignment of Binance Holdings Limited and its two top officials, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, till April 8.

The court had deferred the arraignment of the defendants in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/115/2024 following the inability of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to effect service of the charge against them.

The company is on trail on a four-count tax evasion charge.

At today’s proceedings, counsel to the 2nd defendant, Gambaryan, Mr. Mark Mordi, SAN, raised an objection over the inability of the prosecution to serve Binance Holdings Limited with a copy of the charge as required by law.

The senior lawyer found fault with the move from the anti-graft agency who attempted to hand a copy of the charge meant for the company, to his client.

He contended that his client was neither an agent, director or representative of the company in the country and as such could not be served on behalf of the 1st defendant.

The EFCC on its part, through its lawyer, Mr. Ekele Iheanacho, urged the court to dismiss the objection and proceed with the trial.

EFCC’s lawyer argued that the 2nd defendant is a representative of the company, insisting that it was wrong for him to decline to receive service of the charge on behalf of the 1st defendant.

He, therefore, urged the court to enter a plea of not guilty for the firm.

Justice Emeka Nwite after listening to both parties adjourned the matter for ruling.

Recall that one of the defendants, Anjarwalla, who is the Africa Regional Manager of Binance, had escaped from custody, with the Federal Government initiating the process to arrest and extradite him back to the country for trial.

Alternatively, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, permits his trial in absentia.

The anti-graft agency had alleged that Binance, which has many subscribers from Nigeria, operated illegally in the country as it neither registered to conduct businesses in Nigeria nor paid any tax to the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS.

It further alleged that while offering taxable services to subscribers on the trading platform known as Binance, the defendants failed to issue invoices to those subscribers for the purposes of determining and payment of their value added taxes (VATs).

In count three of the charge, EFCC accused the defendants of offering services to subscribers on their trading platform in the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies and in the remittance and transfer of those assets, and having offered those services, was obliged to deduct VATs, and did fail to deduct necessary VATs arising from their operations.

The defendants were also alleged to have while involved in the offering of services to subscribers on their trading platform, did aid and abet those subscribers to unlawfully refuse to pay taxes, or neglect to pay those taxes.

The offences allegedly committed by the defendants are punishable under Sections 8 and 29 of the VAT Act of 1993 (as Amended), Section 40 of the FIRS Establishment Act, 2007 (as amended) and under provisions of Section 94 of the Companies Income Tax Act (as amended) respectively.

Besides, in an affidavit deposed to by Mercy Aliyu, a legal officer with the FIRS’ Litigation and Prosecution Department, the prosecution told the court that investigations that culminated to the charge had substantially been concluded.

“There are reasonable grounds that a prima facie case of tax evasion exists against the accused persons,” the deponent averred.

The court earlier ordered Binance to make available to the EFCC a comprehensive data or information of all persons from Nigeria trading on its platform as well as all its transaction history for the past six months.

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Olayemi Cardoso had on February 27, disclosed that about $26billion passed through Binance from unidentified sources.

FG said it was investigating the possibility that the platform was used for money laundering and terrorism financing


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