Binance executive flees ‘unlawful custody’ in Nigeria days before government files tax evasion charges



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A Binance executive taken into custody last month in Nigeria fled the country just days before authorities announced tax evasion charges against him, a colleague, and the crypto exchange.

Reminiscent of a 2019 escape by former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, Binance’s Nadeem Anjarwalla reportedly slipped away after asking to be taken to a mosque to observe Friday prayer as Ramadan nears its final weeks, the Nigeria-based Premium Times reported. Anjarwalla fled on Saturday, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed person representing the Binance executives.

Binance confirmed on Monday that Anjarwalla, one of two employees held since February in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja, was no longer in the country.

“We were made aware that Nadeem is no longer in Nigerian custody. Our primary focus remains on the safety of our employees and we are working collaboratively with Nigerian authorities to quickly resolve this issue,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to Fortune.

After holding the two executives for weeks, Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service formally charged the crypto exchange for tax evasion on Monday, and named the two Binance employees as defendants. Officials accused the company of not paying value-added-tax and company income tax, alleging it didn’t file tax returns in the country, Bloomberg reported. It also said Binance allowed its users to evade taxes. When asked for additional details on the veracity of the charges, Binance didn’t immediately respond.

The Nigerian government had been butting heads with the crypto exchange for months over allegations that Binance facilitated money laundering and terrorism financing, and played a role in devaluing Nigeria’s currency, the Naira. Following a crackdown on crypto exchanges and their employees’ arrest, Binance stopped allowing transactions using the Naira earlier this month.

In February, government officials invited Anjarwalla and Binance’s head of financial crime compliance, Tigran Gambaryan, to Nigeria for what was supposed to be a short trip to try to work things out between the two parties. Instead, after a tense meeting with government officials, the two men were checked out of their hotel and escorted to a compound surrounded by security cameras and guards, where they were held for weeks essentially on house arrest, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A preliminary investigation by Nigeria’s National Security Adviser claimed Anjarwalla fled the country using “a smuggled passport.” But the unnamed person representing Anjarwalla said he did nothing wrong.

“Nadeem left unlawful custody on Saturday 23, he was not being tried by Nigerian courts and has not been informed of any charges against him,” the person told Reuters.

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