The heat keeps increasing on the Nigeria vs Binance case with pressure from the U.S., threatening to sever political ties with Nigeria.

Arkansas Republican Rep. French Hill, a U.S. congressman, is at the frontier of a Congressional push to persuade the Biden administration to secure the release of Binance Executive Tigran Gambaryan. According to FOX Business, Gambaryan has been in detention for nearly four months on charges that Hill describes as “trumped-up,” including money laundering and tax evasion.

Brief Binance Backstory

Gambaryan at Abuja in February (David Exodus/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and former IRS agent, was arrested in Nigeria in February. He had traveled to Nigeria for a meeting with government officials on behalf of Binance, where he works as a compliance officer. The Nigerian government accuses Binance of destabilizing its economy by allowing Nigerians to purchase stablecoins, a type of cryptocurrency backed by the U.S. dollar, which they claim has contributed to the devaluation of the naira amidst massive inflation.

U.S. Response to Binance’s Arrest

Rep. French Hill, the vice chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, plans to call Roger Carstens, the State Department’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, to seek advice on Gambaryan’s case. Carstens had previously moderated on behalf of the Biden administration for WNBA player Brittney Griner’s release when she was detained in Russia in 2022.

Hill also coordinates with Gambaryan’s lawyers, family, and fellow lawmakers, including Rep. Rich McCormick from Georgia, Gambaryan’s home state. His recent visit to Gambaryan at Kuje prison near Abuja with Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, a Pennsylvania Democrat, highlighted Gambaryan’s deteriorating health. Hill described him as “frail, fragile, emotionally drained, and very weak,” noting that Gambaryan had lost significant weight and was not receiving adequate medical care. Reports indicate that Gambaryan has contracted malaria and double pneumonia while in prison.

U.S. Congressman French Hill on Nigeria Vs. Binance case/Fox Business News
U.S. Congressman French Hill on Nigeria Vs. Binance case/Fox Business News

“Tigran is a pawn in a Nigerian political fight.”

U.S. Rep Hill

Although the tax evasion charges against Gambaryan were dropped earlier this month, he remains charged with money laundering by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Despite his role in compliance and financial crime prevention at Binance, Gambaryan’s detention continues to draw criticism from U.S. lawmakers and officials.

Earlier this month, Rep. Hill, with 15 other members of Congress, sent a letter to the White House and the State Department urging immediate action to secure Gambaryan’s release.

Subsequently, more than 100 former Justice Department prosecutors and federal agents, some of whom had worked with Gambaryan, sent a second letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, appealing for intervention.

binance's statement on the Nigeria vs Binance case
Richard Teng CEO Binance/Vulcan Post

Statements and Reactions from Binance

Binance’s spokeswoman states, “Tigran is not and has never been a decision-maker and should not be responsible for resolving its issues with the Nigerian government.”. Despite assurances from a Nigerian official that Gambaryan is receiving proper medical care, reports from his family and close associates suggest otherwise, fueling the pressure campaign for his release.

Gambaryan’s wife, Yuki, expressed hope for a diplomatic resolution, stating, “There must be a way to end this nightmare in a cordial manner. I believe that with the right intervention from the U.S. government, a swift resolution can be achieved for all parties involved.”

Broader Implications

Former Republican Florida Rep. Connie Mack IV, who has been closely following the case, warned of the potential precedent set by Gambaryan’s detention. He cautioned that allowing governments to detain employees in disputes with businesses could have a chilling effect on international commerce.

The State Department has confirmed regular communication with Gambaryan, his family, and his lawyers, providing “appropriate assistance.” However, Gambaryan’s family contends that his only contact with U.S. government officials has been through visits from U.S. Embassy staff, with no direct engagement from the State Department.

Conclusion

As Congressional efforts intensify to secure his release, the outcome could set significant precedents for the treatment of crypto executives and negative implications for international business and diplomacy. Lawmakers continue to advocate for immediate action, underscoring the importance of protecting American citizens and ensuring fair treatment in international disputes.

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