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Court orders Binance to release Nigerians’ data to EFCC

A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered Binance Holdings Limited to give the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) information on Nigerians trading on its platform.

The court gave this order in an ex-parte motion filed by the EFCC. The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/259/2024 and dated February 29, according to the anti-graft agency, was brought according to sections 6(b), (h), (I), 7(1), (a)(2), and 38 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Establishment Act, 2004 and Section 15 of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022 (as amended).

Read also: Explainer: Can Binance share user info with Nigerian government?

In the affidavit supporting the motion, an EFCC operative, Hamma Bello, said the commission’s special investigation team, domiciled in the Office of the National Security Adviser, received intelligence that money laundering and terrorism financing were carried out on Binance.

He said they “received an intelligence stating the nefarious activities (money laundering and terrorism financing) on Binance, a cryptocurrency exchange platform”.

“That on receipt of the intelligence, the team began an investigation by conducting surveillance of the activities of the platform.”

Read also: Is Binance to blame for naira’s woes?

Bello said the team uncovered users using the platform for price discovery. Confirming this on social media platform X, Bayo Onanuga, special adviser to President Bola Tinubu on information and strategy, said: “A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered Binance Holdings Limited to provide the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with the comprehensive data or information of all persons from Nigeria trading on its platform.”

Justice Emeka Nwite delivered the interim order after ruling on the ex-parte motion moved by the EFCC’s lawyer, Ekele Iheanacho.

He said: “The applicant’s application, dated and filed 29th February 2024, is hereby granted as prayed.

“That an order of this honourable court is hereby made directing the operators of Binance to provide the commission with comprehensive data/information relating to all persons from Nigeria trading on its platform.”

Since February 2024, Nigeria has been clamping down on Binance’s activity. In February, Olayemi Cardoso, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, said $26 billion passed through Binance Nigeria from sources and users the apex bank could not identify.

Earlier in March, the Financial Times reported that Nigeria asked the crypto exchange to share information on its top 100 users and all transaction history for the past six months. This was after it detained two Binance executives, Tigran Gambaryan, a former US federal agent leading Binance’s criminal investigations team; and Nadeem Anjarwalla, the exchange’s regional manager for Africa based in Kenya.

Nigeria has accused Binance of aiding speculative activities, which it said contributed to the fall of the naira. “But suffice to say that we are determined to do everything it takes to ensure that we take charge of our market and not allow others to manipulate it… We will not accept it and will do everything possible to prevent any infraction,” Cardoso said recently.

In its government law enforcement request system policy, Binance disclosed that government and law enforcement agencies can submit information requests.

A portion titled information sharing under its terms of use read: “We may be required under applicable law to share information about your Binance account and account history with third parties…”

In a statement titled ‘Binance and Nigerian Law Enforcement: Partnership to Foster Responsible Growth,’ last week, the exchange noted that complying with the applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates is a top priority.

It highlighted that between June 2020 and February 2024, its financial crime compliance teams responded to 626 information requests from Nigerian law enforcement agencies.