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EFCC To Arraign Binance Chiefs Thursday, Gets Court Warrant To Extradite Anjarwalla Who Escaped From Custody

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will on Thursday arraign Binance Holdings Limited and two of its senior executives, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, who recently escaped from custody and fled Nigeria, over an alleged $35,400,000 money laundering case.

The EFCC had on Thursday, March 28, charged Binance Holdings Limited, Gambaryan, Anjarwalla with laundering $35,400,000.

The EFCC, which has now fully taken over the case from the Office of the National Security Adviser, has also detained Gambaryan and has obtained a court warrant to arrest and extradite Anjarwalla.

Confirming the development to our correspondent on Friday, impeccable sources in the anti-graft agency said that Anjarwalla would be arraigned in absentia alongside Binance and Gambaryan.

“The detained Binance executive, Gambaryan, is now in the custody of the EFCC. The NSA has handed over the matter to the EFCC for investigation and prosecution. The commission has charged Binance, Gambaryan, and Anjarwalla to court for $35,400,000 money laundering, and they’ll be arraigned in court on Thursday, April 4, 2024,” a source told Newsmen.

Another source revealed, “The EFCC is now partnering with the International Criminal Police Organisation, the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation, the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Kenyan government to effect the arrest and extradition of Mr Anjarwalla, the fugitive who fled from lawful custody in Nigeria.”

Following the takeover of the investigation into the financial irregularities allegedly committed by Binance, the EFCC has filed five counts bordering on money laundering against the cryptocurrency firm and two of its executives, Anjarwalla and Gambaryan.

The court documents exclusively obtained by our correspondent revealed that the charges were filed on Thursday, March 28, 2024, before the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Abuja division.

The charges read, “That you, Binance Holdings Limited (aka Binance), Tigran Gambaryan, and Nadeem Anjarwalla (now at large), between January 2023 and January 2024 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court carried on specialised business of other financial institution without (a) valid licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 57(1) and (2) of the Banks and Other Financial, Institutions Act, 2020 and punishable under Section 57(5) of the same Act.

“Count two: That you, Binance Holdings Limited (aka Binance), Tigran Gambaryan, and Nadeem Anjarwalla (now at large), between January 2022 and January 2024 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court engaged in (the) business of other financial institution (other than insurance, stockbroking and pension fund management) without (a) valid licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 58(5) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, 2020.

“Count three: That you, Binance Holdings Limited (aka Binance) between January 2022 and January 2024 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, not being an authorised dealer in Nigeria’s Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market, used your virtual asset services platform to unlawfully negotiate foreign exchange rates in Nigeria and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 29(1) (c) of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring And Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.

“Count four: That you, Binance Holdings Limited (aka Binance), Tigran Gambaryan, and Nadeem Anjarwalla (now at large), and other persons at large, between January 2023 and January 2024 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired among yourselves to conceal the origin of the proceeds of your unlawful activities and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 21 (a) and punishable under Section 18(3) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022.

“Count five: That you, Binance Holdings Limited (aka Binance), Tigran Gambaryan, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, between January 2023 and December 2023 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court concealed the origin of a cumulative sum of $35,400, 000 generated as revenue by Binance in Nigeria knowing that the funds constituted proceeds of unlawful activity and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 18(3) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and prohibition) Act, 2022.”

The Federal Government, on Monday, contacted INTERPOL and issued an arrest warrant for the apprehension of one of the detained executives of Binance, Anjarwalla, who escaped from lawful custody the previous Friday.

It was gathered from the Office of the National Security Adviser that Anjarwalla used a Kenyan passport to escape, while his colleague was still in custody.

Anjarwalla, who has British and Kenyan nationalities, escaped from Abuja through a Middle East airliner, as his firm confirmed that he was no longer in the country, adding that it would cooperate with security agencies.

The escape shocked security agencies, as they revealed that the fleeing executive was kept in a “safe house” guarded by soldiers, adding that the security guards on duty had been detained.

The ONSA confirmed the escape of Anjarwalla in a statement issued in Abuja on Monday by the Head of Strategic Communication, Zakari Mijinyawa, who stated that preliminary investigation showed that the escapee fled Nigeria using a smuggled passport.

He noted that efforts were ongoing to arrest the suspect.

The statement read, “The Office of the National Security Adviser confirms that Nadeem Anjarwalla, a suspect in the ongoing criminal probe into the activities of Binance in Nigeria, has escaped from lawful custody on Friday, March 22, 2024.

“Upon receiving this report, this office took immediate steps, in conjunction with relevant security agencies, Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, as well as the international community, to apprehend the suspect.

“Security agencies are working with INTERPOL for an international arrest warrant on the suspect. Preliminary investigation shows that Mr Anjarwalla fled Nigeria using a smuggled passport.”

Mijinyawa noted that the personnel responsible for the custody of Anjarwalla had been arrested, adding that investigations were ongoing to unravel the circumstances surrounding his escape.

He added, “The personnel responsible for the custody of the suspect have been arrested, and a thorough investigation is ongoing to unravel the circumstances that led to his escape from lawful detention.

“Recall that the Federal Government of Nigeria, like other governments around the world, has been investigating money laundering and terrorism financing transactions perpetrated on the Binance currency exchange platform.

“Until his escape, Nadeem Anjarwalla, who holds British and Kenyan nationalities and served as Binance’s Africa regional manager, was being tried by Nigerian courts.

“The suspect escaped while under a 14-day remand order by a court in Nigeria. He was scheduled to appear before the court again on April 4, 2024.”

The ONSA spokesperson urged Nigerians and the international community to help with information that could lead to the arrest of the suspect.

“We urge the Nigerian public and the international community to provide whatever information they have that can assist law enforcement agencies to apprehend the suspect,” Mijinyawa added.

Financial Times reported on February 28, 2024, that two executives of the company were arrested and detained after they flew into Nigeria as a result of a ban on their website.

On March 12, 2024, the FT reported that the EFCC asked Binance to share data on its 100 top users in Nigeria as well as transaction history for the past six months.

According to the report, the request is at the centre of negotiations between Binance and Nigeria.

 

BIG STORY

Report Excessive Price Increases, Unscrupulous Exploitation Of Consumers — FCCPC Urges Nigerians

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The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has said that business that engage in price-fixing will face swift legal action.

It called attention to the burden that this practice places on the financial security and well-being of consumers and exhorted them to denounce such acts.

This was revealed by the FCCPC in a statement that was published on its official X (formerly known as Twitter) handle on Sunday.

The statement read, “The FCCPC acknowledges that the rising cost of essential goods impacts consumers’ well-being and economic stability.

“While we recognise that the commission cannot directly control prices, we are committed to safeguarding consumers’ interests and ensuring fair market practices, necessitating fair pricing.

“Arbitrary price increases stemming from untoward practices like price gouging and conspiracy to manipulate supply violate existing laws.

“The commission will not hesitate to invoke Section 17(s) of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) 2018 against any perpetrator of such acts. This section prohibits obnoxious trade practices and unscrupulous exploitation of consumers.”

The statement urged Nigerians to stay vigilant and report any unfair trade practices they encounter.

It added, “We encourage consumers to remain vigilant and report unfair trade practices to the FCCPC.

“Consumers can provide details, including the conduct, location of perpetrators, and other relevant information for investigation, through [email protected].

“The FCCPC remains committed to promoting fair competition, protecting consumers, and fostering a regulated marketplace. We appreciate citizens’ vigilance and encourage active participation in reporting any violations.”

Earlier report in February had it that FCCPC closed a popular supermarket in the Garki area of Abuja, Sahad Store, for lack of transparency in products pricing.

Similarly, it also encouraged electricity consumers to report distribution companies that failed to comply with the capping of estimated bills for unmetered customers.

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NLC, TUC Demand N615,000 Minimum Wage For Workers In Fresh Proposal

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Organised labour, comprising the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), has made a fresh demand of N615,000 as the new minimum wage for workers in the country.

According to The Punch, an impeccable source, who is an executive of organised labour, under anonymity, said that the new wage of N615,000 monthly was reached after consultations by the NLC and TUC.

The source, who was a member of one of the sub-committees set up by the government to work on getting a new minimum wage for the country, however, said the wage might still increase, following the recent hike in electricity tariff.

Furthermore, the source said, “We (NLC and TUC) have given our figures to the government (on the minimum wage), and it is N615,000. That is the position of the NLC and TUC on the matter. The government has been informed as well.”

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, through Vice President Kashim Shettima, had on January 30, set up a 37-member panel at the Council Chamber of the State House in Abuja.

With its membership cutting across federal and state governments, the private sector, and organised labour, the panel was tasked with recommending a new national minimum wage.

At the inaugural meeting of the panel, Shettima urged members to ‘speedily’ arrive at a resolution, and submit their reports early as the current N30,000 minimum wage expired at the end of March 2024.

Chairing the panel is a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Bukar Aji, who, at the inauguration ceremony, affirmed that its members would come up with a ‘fair, practical, implementable and sustainable’ minimum wage.

The inauguration followed months of agitation from organised labour over the FG’s failure to inaugurate the new national minimum wage committee as promised during negotiations last October.

From the government’s side, members include the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, representing the Minister of Labour and Employment; Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, who was represented by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Lydia Jafiya; the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Atiku Bagudu; Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Yemi Esan; and Permanent Secretary, GSO/OSGF, Dr Nnamdi Mbaeri, among others.

Representing the Nigeria Governors Forum are Mohammed Bago of Niger State, representing the North Central; Senator Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, representing the North East; Umar Radda of Katsina State, representing the North West; Charles Soludo of Anambra State, representing the South East; Senator Ademola Adeleke of Osun State, for the South West; and Otu Bassey of Cross River State, on behalf of the South-South.

From the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association is the Director-General of the association, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde; Chuma Nwankwo, Thompson Akpabio; as well as members from the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, including Michael Olawale-Cole, Ahmed Rabiu, and Humphrey Ngonadi.

From organised labour, the Nigeria Labour Congress is represented by its president, Joe Ajaero; as well as President of the TUC, Festus Osifo; and his deputy, Tommy Etim-Okon, among others.

Ajaero had announced N1m as the new minimum wage, owing to the rising inflation in the country which, according to him, had pushed many of his members into poverty.

This led to several controversies, with some experts stating that the wage was unrealisable or sustainable.

However, in an interview with one of our correspondents, another labour leader stated that the NLC and TUC had pegged the new wage at N615,000 tentatively.

Asked if the May 1 deadline was still on course, the labour leader said, “What I want you to know is that we are doing our best. Both the TUC and NLC have harmonised, and they have sent their position to the government.

“We are in the process. Be assured that once anything happens, I will, as usual, inform you. That is all I can tell you for now, because we have not met; even though we have submitted our unified positions to the Federal Government. We will be speaking with one voice.

“But, let me also hint you that with the removal of the electricity tariff subsidy, we are going to have another round of serious conversations with the government. Mind you, the tariff increase is also very good for us, because they (the government) did it when the new minimum wage process had not been concluded. So, it is going to be a good ground for us to ask for more.

“Our position will be defended based on the new price of N225 per kWh of electricity. Although we (the government and Labour) are not in agreement, we are waiting to meet and decide on the next point of action.”

The source added, “This is because if you look at the Electricity Act, it canvassed a position that before any increase at all, there must be stakeholders’ engagement. However, the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission unilaterally imposed the removal of the electricity tariff on the consumers, without recourse to stakeholders. That is in total defiance to the provisions of the Act.

“These are the issues that will be in the front burner of our next negotiation with the Federal Government.

“The new tariff will also give us another strategy to press the government on the need to move the minimum wage upward. This is because the government has not announced any new minimum wage yet, as we are still negotiating.

“As I said, the NLC and TUC have harmonised positions, which we have sent to the government. It is even now that the negotiation will start properly. All that we have done so far was to try to lay the foundation, and now that we have come up with our positions, the government will also come up with their own. We will then start a fresh negotiation.”

  • Economists Differ

Reacting, a professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, Sheriffdeen Tella, said, “If internationally, they say there is poverty in Nigeria, what they mean is that Nigerians are earning less than two dollars per day. If you want to fix the minimum wage to end poverty, what you should do is fix the minimum wage above that.

“Whatever the labour unions have presented to the Federal Government is for negotiation and to serve as a benchmark. It is left for the Federal Government to negotiate.

“There is a law that has been established to make them comply. But, they (state governments) decide to flout the law. When it is agreed as minimum wage, that is what the private and public sectors should pay. If they don’t pay, they should be taken to court.”

A professor of Microeconomics at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Adeola Adenikinju, noted that while the Federal Government would bear a significant burden, it was imperative to recognise the involvement of state governments and the private sector in the implementation of the new minimum wage.

Adenikinju, who is also the President of the Nigerian Economic Society, harped on the importance of acknowledging the diverse economic landscapes across states, suggesting that a uniform minimum wage might not be feasible, due to varying levels of affordability.

He said, “The proposed minimum wage by the NLC should be looked at. It is not only the Federal Government that is going to pay this. The state government and private sector are also involved.

“It must be noted that the minimum wage varies by state, as some states are richer than others.”

In a similar vein, another economist, Paul Alaje, explained that there was a high possibility of President Bola Tinubu declaring between N100,000 and N200,000 as the minimum wages for both the private and public sectors if the exchange rate of naira improved to N1,000 per dollar by May.

He added that 30 out of the 36 states would struggle and might not align with the payment of the new minimum wage if it was pegged at N615,000.

According to him, getting special assistance from the Federal Government and intervention funds from international communities should be tied to states having zero clearance of previous salaries.

He also stated while the proposed minimum wage might not be so much of a challenge for the Federal Government and six states, the other 30 states will struggle to pay that amount.”

 

Credit: The Punch

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New National ID Card To Be Issued Through Banks — FG

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The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) states that applicants’ banks will provide them with the anticipated national ID card.

In order to provide the cards to applicants, NIMC stated that it is collaborating with the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS).

“The card will be issued through the applicants’ respective banks in line with existing protocols with the issuance of the Debit/Credit cards,” the agency said in a Friday update on its official X (formerly known as Twitter) handle.

It said applicants need to request their cards with their NIN “through the self-service online portal, NIMC offices, or their respective banks”.

“The card will be powered by the AFRIGO card scheme, an indigenous scheme powered by NIBSS,” NIMC said.

“The card can be picked up by holders at the designated center or delivered to the applicants at the requested location at an extra cost to be borne by the applicants,” the update read.

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