Binance executive to remain in custody as court denies bail plea

Because of information we have received, we have even proposed that the defendant be returned to EFCC custody where he will be taken good care of.”

By Deborah Hassan

365Daily – The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has rejected a bail application of the detained official of Binance Holdings Limited, Tigran Gambaryan, who is currently remanded in Kuje Correctional Facility on the orders of the Nigerian government.

He is facing a five-count money laundering and terrorism financing charge alongside Binance.

Justice Emeka Nwite, who presided over the session, said the court was not convinced that the defendant would be available to face trial if he is released on bail.

According to the court, the defendant, failed to present sufficient materials to sway its discretion in his favour.

Justice Nwite held that based on affidavit evidence produced by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), there is likelihood that the defendant may jump bail.

He, therefore, dismissed the defendant’s bail application, pending the determination of the case against him which he ordered to be accelerated.

The EFCC had on April 23, urged the court to allow the Binance official to remain in Kuje prison.

The anti-graft agency maintained that it got a reliable intelligence that plans were afoot for the defendant to escape from custody and flee the country like his colleague.

It told the court that the defendant had attempted to secure a brand new international passport from the embassy of the United States of America.

EFCC further alleged that the defendant is an Armenian citizen by birth, saying there was a clear danger that he would jump bail if released from custody.

The defendant, through his lead counsel, Mr. Mark Mordi (SAN), on April 4appealed for bail while relying on provisions of sections 157 and 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

He argued that the charge the EFCC preferred against him was bailable, insisting that under the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, he is presumed innocent of them.

Mordi argued that the prosecution failed to place any evidence before the court to establish that his client posed a flight risk.

“The prosecution has not presented any credible evidence to establish why the defendant should not be granted bail,” the defense lawyer submitted, adding that the claim that his client was planning to escape from the country was based “hearsay, unreliable and inadmissible evidence.”

“My client is anxious and very desirous to prove his Innocence. This whole thing is that they want to use the defendant as a leavrage to obtain information from his employer. That is basically what this case is all about.

“This is purely a state sanctioned hostage taking,” the defence counsel added.

He, therefore, prayed the court to grant the defendant bail and stipulate conditions that would ensure his attendance to his trial.

But the EFCC counsel, Mr. Ekele Iheanacho, opposed the bail request, noting that his colleague, Nadeem Anjarwalla, escaped from lawful custody. He, however, moved that the suspect could be moved from Kuje Correction Facility to that of EFCC.

Iheanacho said, “There was an attempt by this defendant to procure another travelling document even when he was aware that his passport was in custody of the state. He pretended as if the said passport was stolen.

“My lord, he made the move within the same period that his colleague escaped from custody and fled the country.

“If not that operatives of the Commission intercepted him, that act would have been completed.

“This court will be taking a grave risk to grant the defendant bail. This is also considering the fact that he has no attachment to any community in Nigeria.

“The fact that the passport of the defendant is with the complainant does not also guarantee that he will remain in Nigeria. He is not only an American citizen, he was born in Armenia and has its citizenship by birth.

“The experience we have had with the man who escaped to Kenya while his United Kingdom passport is in Nigeria will certainly repeat itself if this defendant is granted bail.

“Because of information we have received, we have even proposed that the defendant be returned to EFCC custody where he will be taken good care of, instead of the prison. It was an option we initially opposed.

“The 1st defendant (Binance) is operating virtually. The only thing we have to hold on to is this defendant. So, we pray my lord to refuse bail to the defendant,” the prosecution counsel added.

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