Nigerian Officials Claim Detained Binance Exec Is 'Fine' Amid Health Concerns

Nigerian prison officials said Thursday that Tigran Gambaryan, a senior Binance executive being held in the country, has no “serious health condition” and is doing “fine” in detention.

Gambaryan’s family had said in a statement earlier in the week that he was “suffering immensely” while in custody amid a legal battle between the prominent crypto exchange and the Nigerian government.

The Government-owned News Agency of Nigeria reported that he collapsed in court due to ill health in May. Gambaryan’s alleged deteriorating health condition has become one of the focal points in the ongoing legal battle between Binance and Nigerian authorities.

The American’s family reported that his health has continued to deteriorate in detention, noting that he has complained of numbness in his foot as well as back pain. They said he’s also had double pneumonia and malaria while in prison.

The Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) spokesman, Umar Abubakar, said at a press conference at the Office of the National Security Adviser on Thursday that Gambaryan’s health is being given adequate attention.

“He is fine with us, and he will continue to be fine with us,” Abubakar said. 

Gambaryan, who heads financial crime compliance for cryptocurrency giant Binance, was detained on February 28 alongside the exchange’s regional head for Africa, Nadeem Anjarwalla. The arrests were made on the order of the silent but hawkish national security adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, a retired policeman and former head of the country’s anti-corruption agency.

The country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) accused both men and Binance of carrying out “specialised business of other financial institutions without valid license.”

They were also accused of manipulating the foreign exchange (forex) market, concealing the “origin of the proceeds of your unlawful activities,” and the “origin of a cumulative sum of $35,400,000.”

Binance was initially accused of tax violations too, but those have been dropped by the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

Anjarwalla has since fled custody and the country, but Gambaryan is still being held. NCoS had been mum about Gambaryan’s health until Thursday. 

​​His lawyers informed the court on July 1 that, despite several court orders, the officials of the Kuje prison in Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja have yet to release his medical records from his visit to the hospital on June 3.

Abubakar did not respond to Decrypt’s questions on whether the health records were released to the Binance executive’s lawyers.

While his family has insisted in recent weeks that his health was getting worse, the NCoS spokesman insisted the prison can cater to Gambaryan’s health needs.

“Like other open hospitals, where we felt that the condition cannot be managed within our facility, they are referred to an appropriate hospital where they will continue their treatment,” Abubakar said at the press conference.

Gambaryan’s family representative did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comment on the prison authorities’ statement.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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