U.S. Lawmakers Push for Release of Detained Binance Executive in Nigeria

In a significant development at the intersection of cryptocurrency regulation and international diplomacy, U.S. lawmakers have intensified efforts to secure the release of Tigran Gambaryan, a Binance executive currently detained in Nigeria. Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and head of financial crimes compliance for Binance, has been in custody since February 2024, facing money laundering charges.

Representatives French Hill (R-Ark.) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) recently visited Gambaryan at Kuje prison in Abuja, Nigeria. Their visit revealed alarming details about Gambaryan’s condition. According to Rep. Hill, Gambaryan is suffering from malaria and double pneumonia, has lost significant weight, and is being denied adequate medical attention. The lawmakers described the prison conditions as “horrible” and expressed serious concerns about Gambaryan’s health and well-being.

Gambaryan’s background adds complexity to the situation. Before joining Binance, he spent a decade as an Internal Revenue Service Special Agent, focusing on combating money laundering and tax evasion. This experience makes his current predicament particularly ironic and concerning to U.S. officials.

The case has drawn attention from various corners of the U.S. government. Earlier in June, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and 15 other lawmakers signed a letter to President Joe Biden, urging immediate action to bring Gambaryan back to the United States. Additionally, over 100 former prosecutors have written to Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoing this call for action.

Representatives Hill and Houlahan have called for Gambaryan’s immediate humanitarian release, citing his deteriorating health condition and the poor prison conditions. They have urged the U.S. embassy in Nigeria to advocate for his release on humanitarian grounds, emphasizing what they view as his innocence and the urgent need for proper medical care.

The legal proceedings against Gambaryan are ongoing, with tax evasion charges recently dropped. However, he still faces money laundering charges, with the trial continuing and the next court date set for July 1, 2024.

This case occurs against the backdrop of broader tensions between Nigeria and cryptocurrency platforms. Nigerian authorities have blamed Binance for exacerbating the country’s currency woes, as cryptocurrency websites have become popular platforms for trading the Nigerian naira amid chronic dollar shortages.