Binance CEO Richard Teng asked to appear before Nigerian committee

Binance is in hot water in Nigeria in the aftermath of its settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Nigeria’s House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes issued an ultimatum to Binance CEO Richard Teng on Friday, according to a local news report.

Ginger Onwusibe, the chairman of the committee, has asked Teng to appear before the committee by March 4. The summons was issued over its alleged involvement in financial crimes, including money laundering and terrorism financing.

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Onwusibe warned that Teng’s failure to answer the summons would force the committee to invoke its constitutional powers and take appropriate steps.

In its U.S. plea deal, which received the judge’s approval last week, Binance pled guilty to money laundering and terrorism financing. The exchange also agreed to pay a historic fine of $4.3 billion and operate with monitoring as part of its settlement.

Binance has been uncooperative with the Nigerian committee

Shortly after Binance’s U.S. plea deal was announced, in a letter dated Dec. 12, the committee first asked Binance’s Managing Director to attend a hearing on Dec. 18. Binance was asked to brief the committee regarding Binance’s disregard for Nigeria’s laws.

The Nigerian Committee issued the ultimatum after Binance refused its invitation to address the committee in the past several times.

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Onwusibe said:

“The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has empowered us to protect Nigerians from financial crimes, especially by foreign companies… The allegations of terrorism financing, money laundering, and tax evasion, amongst others levelled against Binance are damning enough.”

Onwusibe said the committee is resolved to fight financial crime and “block the leaks and channels to financing terror,” and “no distraction and manipulation can stop us.”

With Nigeria struggling with recession, the committee is also trying to collect as many tax dollars as possible.

According to Onwusibe, Binance caters to over 10 million Nigerians on its platform. However, the exchange does not pay any taxes in the country. Binance also does not have a physical presence in Nigeria where users can lodge complaints, Onwusibe said, adding:

“The era of exploitation is over and all culprits must be held accountable.”

Binance’s woes in Nigeria are escalating

Last week, the country’s telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), ordered telecom companies to block access to websites of foreign crypto exchanges, including Binance, Coinbase, and Kraken.

On Feb. 26, Nigeria’s Department of State Security detained two Binance executives and confiscated their passports in connection with the investigation into Binance, according to a DLNews report.

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A day later, Olayemi Cardoso, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, said that Binance Nigeria has witnessed “suspicious flows” of money in 2023. He stated:

“In the case of Binance, in the last one year alone, $26 billion has passed through Binance Nigeria from sources and users who we cannot adequately identify.”

On Friday, the BBC reported that the Nigerian government has ordered Binance to pay $10 billion in compensation. The report also noted that the government believes Binance and its executives manipulated foreign exchange rates through currency speculation and rate-fixing.

In a report on the same day by the Peoples Gazette Nigeria, a Binance spokesperson said that while the exchange was in talks with the government to “resolve issues,” it has not been informed of a $10 billion fine. In the same report, special advisor Bayo Onanuga said that his comments to the BBC were misinterpreted and that he never said the government had finalized the amount of the fine or that Binance was aware of it.

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Author: Monika Ghosh

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