Nigerian Government File Tax Evasion Suit Against Binance As Detained Exchange Official Escapes Custody

Two senior officials at Binance, the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange firm, have been detained in Nigeria, as the government deploys all measures to rescue the value of the Naira. 

One of the two detained Binance executives is an American, while the other is British-Pakistani. The duo landed in Nigeria after learning of the country’s decision to ban several cryptocurrency exchange platforms but they were detained by the office of the country’s national security adviser and their passports seized.

On Tuesday Yemi Cardoso, Nigeria’s central bank governor, while announcing the new interest rate for the country, expressed concerns about the suspicious flows of dollars that go through several crypto entities that may have a distortionary effect on the apex bank’s efforts in stabilizing the naira.

In his words, Cardoso told reporters: “In the case of Binance, in the last year alone, $26bn has passed through Binance Nigeria from sources and users who we cannot adequately identify.” He had also mentioned that Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, police and national security adviser were co-ordinating an investigation into cryptocurrency exchanges. The authorities were demanding to see a list of Binance’s Nigerian users since its inception, someone familiar with the matter said.

As a seeming replica of what played out in Beijing that eventually led to the ban on cryptocurrency operations in China in 2021, relevant authorities in Nigeria have begun censoring cryptocurrency websites following a rapid devaluation of the country’s local currency that helped drive inflation to a remarkable 29.9 per cent high in almost 30 years. 

On February 21, the telecoms regulator ordered telecoms companies to hack or block access to some of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance, Coinbase and Kraken.

The clampdown follows a period after several cryptocurrency websites emerged as platforms of choice for trading the Nigerian currency, which has suffered chronic dollar shortages. The naira’s official exchange rate has been trading at levels close to the parallel market level after the currency was devalued last month, its second adjustment in less than a year.

Lately, Nigeria has been faced with twin economic problems of fighting inflation and regulating the naira since foreign investors fled the country following a previous oil price collapse and the introduction of capital controls in 2015.

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