Nigeria Detains Two Binance Executives Amidst Crypto Probe

The Nigerian government has detained two Binance executives and has demanded almost $10 billion (£8bn) in compensation from the company over what it said were illicit transactions in the country that have exacerbated an ongoing currency crisis.

The two executives flew into the country last week to negotiate with government officials after the government blocked transactions to Binance and other cryptocurrency platforms earlier this month.

Binance is by far the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, but Nigeria also blocked transactions to Coinbase, Forextime, Kraken, OctaFX and other platforms in a move to block speculation on the country’s currency, the niara.

The two executives were detained by the office of the country’s national security adviser and their passports seized, according to local media.

Forex ‘manipulation’

The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) said in a statement provided to Silicon UK that it was investigating Binance as part of an inter-agency probe over foreign exchange manipulations.

The government has accused Binance of operating illegally in Nigeria without having properly registered.

The Nigerian authorities asked the Binance executives to provide data relating to niara transactions over the past seven years and for some data relating to Nigeria to be deleted from Binance, local reports said.

Authorities reportedly obtained a court warrant to detain the executives for at least 12 days and seized the passports belonging to the two individuals, who are understood to be American and British-Pakistani.

US criminal charges

Reuters reported that cryptocurrency transactions amounting to 12 percent of Nigeria’s total gross domestic product (GDP) took place in the year to June 2023.

Special adviser Bayo Onanuga told the BBC Newsday programme that currency speculation and rate-fixing that have seen the niara lose nearly 70 percent of its value in recent months were largely due to illicit transactions on Binance.

He said the government of Africa’s biggest economy has demanded nearly $10bn in compensation for the illicit trading activity, which saw $26bn moved last year by “sources and users who we cannot adequately identify”, Olayemi Cardoso, Nigeria’s central bank governor, said last week.

In November Binance paid $4.3bn in penalties to US authorities over criminal charges relating to money laundering and violating sanctions.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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