Opinion

With this reported escape from house arrest, is Binance admitting guilt in Nigeria?

The reported escape of Binance executive Nadeem Anjarwalla from house arrest over the weekend in Nigeria is raising a lot of questions.

Yes, there is the question of how it happened, which will need to be explained. It must also be said however that Anjarwalla and his colleague were not held in prison custody – instead they were under a form of house arrest, which came with certain privileges.

But the bigger question in my view is: why did Anjarwalla choose to escape, if indeed he is innocent, as he and Binance have been arguing in the last few weeks? Why did he choose to flee right after a 4-count criminal charge of tax evasion was filed against the company and its executives? Is this not in keeping with Binance’s reputation as a lawless company, better known for violating national laws than legitimate business activity?

Now that Anjarwalla, a dual British-Kenyan national, has made himself a fugitive from the law in Nigeria, what next? Will the United Kingdom, which already spends millions of pounds sterling annually to support anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria, harbour him and shield him from justice? Or will they cooperate with the Nigerian authorities to ensure that justice is done?

It is worth remembering that Binance is a company that has already been found guilty of massive violations by the US Government. The $4.3 billion fine slammed on them is the largest fine EVER by the US Treasury. This company is not a ‘victim’.

Founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao pleaded guilty to criminal charges, in November 2023, and is awaiting sentencing. He also had to step down as CEO of the company. He faces considerable jail time. A US Court has ruled that he must stay in the US until his sentencing.

What is instructive is that Binance did not attempt to use blackmail or illegality to resist or evade the serious allegations brought against it by the US Government. So why are things different in the Nigerian case?

Nigeria has played by the rules – it got a Court order for the detention, and has filed formal criminal charges against Binance and its executives. The law should be allowed to take its course. Let the Courts decide, as in the US case, whether Binance is guilty or not.

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