Court Strikes Out Tax Evasion Charge Against Binance Executives

Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja, discharged the executive of Binance Holdings Limited, Tigran Gambaryan, and his colleague, Nadeem Anjarwalla.

INFORMATION NIGERIA reports that the two Binance representatives were detained over alleged tax evasion charge leveled against the company by the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

Justice Nwite, in a ruling, discharged and struck out Gambaryan and Anjarwalla’s names from the four-count charge after FIRS’ counsel, Moses Ideho, filed a fresh amended charge wherein Binance is listed as the sole defendant.

While Binance is the first defendant in the May 17 amended charge filed by FIRS, Gambaryan was listed as 2nd defendant as Anjarwalla’s name appeared as being at large.

It was gathered that when the case was called on Friday, Gambaryan stepped into the dock.

Tonye Krukrubo, SAN, who appeared for Binance (1st defendant), then informed the court that the cryptocurrency firm had just appointed a representative in Nigeria.

According to News Agency of Nigeria, the new appointee, stood up and announced his name as Ayodele Omotilewa.

Ideho confirmed that his office received a notice of appointment of a representative by Binance.

He said the notice was dated June 13, 2024, appointing Ayodele Omotilewa as its agent in the country.

According to the above mentioned news outlet, disclosed that FIRS lawyer told the court that against the development, an amended four-count charge listing Binance Holdings Limited as sole defendant was filed on June 13.

He therefore applied that Omotilewa should be docked to take a plea on behalf of the company.

But Krukrubo disagreed with Ideho’s application.

The senior lawyer, who argued that the company’s representative was yet to be served with the fresh amended charge, said Omotilewa was only appearing in court for the first time.

He said: “I think my learner friend should confirm whether he has served him or not first. We are not there yet.”

“He is one of us; a legal practitioner.”

He said the proper thing for the prosecution to do was to address the court on the charge he intended to substitute.

C.J. Caleb, who appeared for Gambaryan (2nd defendant), aligned himself with Krukrubo’s submission.

He said: “More importantly, the ACJA (Administration of Criminal Justice) Act, particularly Part 47, did not leave us in doubt on how a trial should proceed in respect of a corporation,” he said

Caleb added that the Act also specified all that is required for a representative in criminal trial, citing Sections 478 , 481, 482 and 483.

“So I align with my learner colleague that the representative is enough to be in court but does have to be in the dock,” he said.

But Ideho disagreed, citing Section 481 of ACJA to back his argument.

“If my lord is to look carefully at the provisions of this section and subsection, a representative cannot just sit in the gallery and watch like a spectator how the trial is conducted.

“He should be in the dock because this is a criminal charge not civil matter,” he said.

Reacting, Krukrubo argued that there was no where in the section cited by Ideho where it was said that a company’s representative must be in the dock.

READ MORE: Alleged Money Laundering: Court Denies Binance Executive Bail

“Section 481 is written in black and white and it does not say that a representative of a corporation must be in dock.

“What he is saying is not contemplated by ACJA,” he said.

Also speaking, Caleb argued that Section 418 of ACJA only talked about the power of a representative.

Justice Nwite then directed Ideho to move the latest application filed.

Moving his fresh amended charge, Ideho said the application was filed on June 13.

“We will like to amend and substitute the charge with the earlier one of May 17, 2024, which was our last amended charge my lord,” he said.

The defendants’ lawyers did not oppose the application.

However, Caleb applied that the court should strike out the two earlier charges that listed his client, Gambaryan, as 2nd defendant, dated March 22 and the amended charge dated May 17.

He said this was so because the name of his client was mentioned in the two charges.

The lawyer equally applied that Gambaryan should be discharged from the dock and from the proceedings in its entirety.

He further applied that the earlier order directing that the service of the charge on Binance be done through Gambaryan be vacated, having been in the court record that the company had appointed a representative .

Justice Nwite, in a ruling, granted the prosecution application for the substitution of the June 13 amended charge for the May 17 one.

The judge, who set aside the earlier order, directing Gambaryan to be served on behalf of the company., discharged him from the dock.

Justice Nwite adjourned the matter until July 12 for plea.