U.S. Lawmakers Urge Immediate Action for Detained Binance Executive in Nigeria

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Representative Rich McCormick (R-GA), and fourteen other House Republicans have called on President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Special Presidential Envoy Roger Carstens to urgently address the wrongful detention of Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Head of Financial Crime Compliance at Binance, by the Nigerian government. Their letter emphasizes the need for immediate intervention, highlighting concerns about Gambaryan’s deteriorating health and harsh treatment during his detention.

Tigran Gambaryan, a former federal agent with a decade-long career at the IRS where he led significant cybercrime investigations, joined Binance in 2021. He traveled to Nigeria on February 26, 2024, at the invitation of the Nigerian government for high-level meetings regarding Binance’s compliance issues. However, after two rounds of initially professional meetings that turned increasingly hostile, Gambaryan was detained by Nigerian authorities on baseless charges of money laundering and tax evasion. He was held hostage at a government-owned facility for five days before being transferred to Kuje Prison, notorious for its severe conditions.

Since his detention, Gambaryan has faced excessive and harsh treatment, including restricted access to his legal team, always under the watch of government officials and armed guards. His legal situation has been precarious, with Nigerian authorities openly admitting in court that Gambaryan is being used as leverage against Binance. Despite a court order expiring on March 12, which should have ended his detention, Gambaryan remained imprisoned without legal grounds until further hearings.

Recent developments have raised alarm over Gambaryan’s health. He tested positive for malaria and collapsed during a court appearance on May 23, leading the judge to order his transfer to a private hospital. However, prison officials have not fully complied with the court’s directive, and adequate medical treatment has not been provided.

The lawmakers’ letter to President Biden and other top officials highlights the urgency of Gambaryan’s situation, urging the transfer of his case to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. The letter stresses that Gambaryan qualifies as a “U.S. Citizen wrongfully detained by a foreign government” under the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act. Lawmakers argue that his detention is a coercion tactic by the Nigerian government to extort Binance, which faces accusations of making illegal-transaction profits locally.

Michael McCaul and his colleagues have called for immediate action to ensure Gambaryan’s safety, emphasizing the risk to his life due to inadequate medical care and harsh detention conditions. They assert that swift intervention is necessary to prevent further deterioration of his health and to secure his release.

This case underscores the complexities and risks associated with international business operations, particularly in regions with unstable legal and political environments. The situation also highlights the role of government and international diplomacy in addressing wrongful detentions and protecting the rights of citizens abroad.