Court discharges Binance executives from FIRS tax evasion case against company - Ripples Nigeria
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Court discharges Binance executives from FIRS tax evasion case against company

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A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Friday, discharged Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, two executives of the crypto currency firm, Binance Holding Ltd from the tax evasion suit filed against the company by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

This development follows the appointment of a Nigerian representative for Binance.

Consequently, the court struck out the FIRS charges against Gambaryan and Nadeem after Binance and the FIRS confirmed the appointment of Ayodele Omotilewa as the company’s representative, with the FIRS filing a fresh charge listing Binance as the sole defendant.

The case against Binance involves allegations of failing to collect and remit taxes, including VAT and CIT, from its operations in Nigeria.

Further proceeding was adjourned to July 12 for plea and discussions on whether the Nigerian representative should be required to stand in the dock.

With the development, the two Binance executives no longer have a case to answer.

It will be recalled thay on May 17, 2024, the FIRS amended its lawsuit, alleging Binance allegedly failed to collect and remit various categories of taxes to the federation, particularly the Value Added Tax (VAT) and the Company Income Tax (CIT), as stipulated by Section 40 of the FIRS Establishment Act 2007 as amended.

The Minister of Information, Idris Mohammed, had said that the cryptocurrency trading platform, Binance, had a turnover of over $20 billion in Nigeria in 2023 alone.

When the case came up for hearing on Friday, counsel for Binance, Tonye Krukrubo (SAN) told Justice Emeka Nwite that his client has forwarded the name of its official representative to the FIRS and to the court.

Counsel for the FIRS, Moses Idehu, confirmed the same and asked the court’s permission to substitute all the previous charges with the fresh amended one dated June 13, 2024.

READ ALSO:Binance executive’s absence stalls arraignment for tax evasion

In the charge, Binance trading platform was accused of offering services ( in the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies and the remittance and transfer of those assets) to Nigerians while failing to deduct the necessary Value Added Taxes (VAT), arising from its operations.

“That you BINANCE HOLDINGS LTD on or about the 1st February 2024, in Abuja, FCT within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, whilst involved in the offering of services to subscribers on your trading platform, known as Binance did aid and abet those subscribers on your trading platform to unlawfully refuse to pay taxes, or neglect to pay those taxes and in so doing committed an offence contrary to and punishable under the provisions of S.94 of the Companies Income Tax Act (as amended),” Count 4 of the four-count charge reads.

However, Idehu urged the court to direct that the Binance representative from Nigeria should enter the dock and take his plea on behalf of the corporation he represents.

Krukrubo and Gambaryan’s legal team contended that Nigerian law does not mandate a representative of a company that is sued to stand inside a dock and take a plea.

They argued that a representative of a company that is sued may not need to attend proceedings and can even write a letter to the court in respect of the company’s position on a matter.

The defense seized the moment and urged the court to discharge Gambaryan and Nadeem from the FIRS case since a representative had been officially sent to the proceedings.

The FIRS also confirmed that the matter is now between the federal government and Binance.

Nwite said on the issue of whether the representative of Binance should be in the dock, parties should file a written address on it so he can rule on it.

Subsequently, he held that the “charges filed on March 22, 2024 and May 17, 2024 are hereby struck out.”

The judge also struck out the names of Gambaryan and Nadeem from the case, directing that the case is adjourned to July 12 for plea.

By: Babajide Okeowo

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