Nigeria presses Binance for user data amid detention of executives

abdelaziz Fathi

Nigeria has made a formal request to Binance demanding details on its top 100 users in the country and a comprehensive transaction history spanning the past six months.

Binance Nigeria

The request comes amidst an escalating dispute between Nigeria and Binance, highlighted by the ongoing detention of two senior Binance executives, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla. The executives have been held in a “guesthouse” controlled by Nigeria’s National Security Agency since their arrival in Abuja on February 25, following an invitation by the Nigerian government.

Initially detained without their identities disclosed to the public, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla’s roles and names were only revealed weeks later. The detention is reportedly linked to Nigeria’s concerns over nearly $26 billion of funds whose origins and movements have raised suspicions among Nigerian authorities.

Nigeria accuses Binance of facilitating financial activities that destabilize the national currency, the naira, and has urged the crypto exchange to settle any pending tax obligations.

In response to the government’s actions last week, Binance has removed the Nigerian naira from its peer-to-peer (P2P) service, which allows users to trade cryptocurrencies without involving a third party. The P2P feature became popular in Nigeria in 2021 following the government’s ban on its crypto industry.

Binance also discontinued naira support for its various services, including Binance Convert, Binance P2P, its Auto Invest feature, and Binance Pay, at different times and dates.

Although Gambaryan and Anjarwalla have not been formally charged with any criminal activities, reports suggest they are being detained as leverage in the government’s broader crackdown on Binance. Despite these tensions, a Binance spokesperson said they are ready to work closely with Nigerian officials to secure the executives’ release.

The Financial Times reported a court-sanctioned order allowing for the executives’ 14-day detention, with a follow-up hearing expected.

The Nigerian government banned cryptocurrency operations during former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. The move aimed at stemming the rapid decline of the Naira and addressing the country’s soaring inflation rate, which has reached a near three-decade high of 29.9%.

Back in 2022, angry consumers of the troubled crypto exchange AAX stormed its local office in Nigeria hoping they can get their money back after the firm when it halted operations.

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