Tax Evasion: FIRS Fails to Arraign Binance Officials in Court

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The arraignment of top Binance officials at the Federal High Court in Abuja did not materialise on Thursday as scheduled because the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) said it could not serve charges on the defendants.

A lawyer to the Nigerian tax agency, FIRS, Moses Ideho, informed the judge, Emeka Nwite, that his client made efforts to serve the charges on Tigran Gambaryan, one of the two Binance executives charged in the case, but was denied access.

Mr Gambaryan is being held by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.

Binance and its two officials – Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla – were to be arraigned on five counts bordering on money laundering and tax evasion before Mr Nwite on Thursday.

 

“My Lord, the prosecution has not been able to serve a copy of the charge on the second defendant (Tigran Gambaryan).

 

“As a result, we mobilised the court bailiff to serve the second defendant, but he was denied access, too,” Mr Ideho told the court.

 

After that, the prosecution lawyer sought the court’s permission to serve Mr Gambaryan with a copy of the charge.

 

He also prayed the court to allow Mr Gambaryan to confer with his lawyers to determine the mode of plea he would take.

 

But, Mr Gambaryan’s lawyer, Chukwuka Ikwazom, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), opposed his client’s taking of plea in the matter.

 

Mr Ikwazom said he needed time to discuss the case with Mr Gambaryan.

 

“For another agency of government to say it has no access to the defendant shows the ‘seriousness’ of how the prosecution handles the case,” Mr Gambaryan’s lawyer told the court.

 

After a heated argument over the failure of the government to effect service on the second defendant, Mr Ideho sought an adjournment to enable Mr Gambaryan to consult with his team of lawyers regarding the charge.

 

The charge was eventually served on Mr Gambaryan, prompting the judge to adjourn further hearing until 19 April for arraignment of the defendants.

 

In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/115/2024 dated and filed 22 March by the FIRS’ team of lawyers, led by Moses Ideho, the prosecution accused the defendants of committing the alleged offences on or about 1 February.

 

Count one alleged that while involved in carrying and offering services to subscribers on their platform, known as Binance, they failed to register with the FIRS for the purpose of paying all relevant taxes administered by the service.

 

Count two alleged that while they were offering taxable services to subscribers on their trading platform known as Binance, they failed to issue invoices to those subscribers to determine and payment of their Value Added Tax (VAT).

Count three accused them of offering services to subscribers on their trading platform in the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies and the remittance and transfer of those assets, and that having offered those services, was obliged to deduct VAT and did fail to deduct necessary VAT, arising from their operations.

In count four, the prosecution accused them of offering services to subscribers on their trading platform, aiding and abetting those subscribers to unlawfully refuse or neglect to pay those taxes.

The alleged offences, according to the prosecution, 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.

 

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