March 2, 2024

Reps to conclude investigation of terrorism financing, money laundering, others against Binance

Reps probe use of N200bn on suspended 2023 census
… set to evoke its constitutional powers against Binance Holdings Limited
By Gift ChapiOdekina, Abuja 

The House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes is set to evoke its constitutional powers against Binance Holdings Limited if she fails to appear to its public hearing to respond to series of allegations of crime and infractions against Nigerians and total disregard for extant laws governing business and financial operations in the country.

Binance Holdings Limited, operators of Digital Assets Exchange in Nigeria has been operating in Nigeria over 6 years allegedly without any adherence to financial regulatory frameworks and has been accused of exploiting Nigerians and committing other financial crimes.

Recall that a coalition of civil society organisations led by the Niger Delta Youth Council Worldwide and the Empowerment for Unemployed Youths against Binance Holdings Limited had  petitioned the Committee to scrutinise the firm’s activities.

Speaking during the public hearing, the committee chairman, Hon Ginger Onwusibe, decried the refusal of the Chief Executive of Binance Holding limited, Mr Richard Teng to appear after series of invitations.

The Committee had summoned the Managing Director of Binance, Richard Teng in a letter dated 12th December, 2023 and signed by its chairman, Hon. Ginger Onwusibe requesting a hearing on the 18th of December, 2023. 

However, instead of the Management team of the Company to appear before the House Committee as required by law, a team of lawyers was sent instead. The lawyers were walked out since the letter was addressed specifically to the Managing Director and not the legal team and a new hearing day fixed for 19th February 2024 to enable Binnance management to make a fresh appearance but they again sent a legal team on the pretext that they just got a copy of the petition and needed time to peruse it.

Documents cited by our correspondents reveals that rather than appear before the committee Binance wrote requesting for a pre-hearing meeting which was held and the infractions read out to their representatives at the meeting.

The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Ginger Onwusibe, while restating the resolve of the Committee to fight financial crimes maintained that, “the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has empowered us to protect Nigerians from financial crimes especially by foreign companies. 

“We also have a duty to protect and defend the finances of the country especially now that the country is nose diving into recession. The allegations of terrorism financing, money laundering and tax evasion amongst others levelled against Binance are damning enough. At this material time, we need all the tax dollars and to block the leaks and channels to financing terror. 

“It is also our duty to do everything in our power to protect Nigerian investors from predatory firms and no amount of distraction and manipulation can stop us. You cannot run a company with over 10 million Nigerians on your platform without paying tax and having a physical office where Nigerians can lodge their complaints when they experience any challenge with your service. The era of exploitation is over and all culprits must be held accountable’.

Reacting to the contemptuous behaviour of the company, the Committee members variously “expressed disappointment in the inability of Binnance management to appear before it for the second time. The described as frivolous, claims that it was impromptu to get a visa for the management since visa is now issued on arrival and it doesn’t take long to go through a petition.

“They maintained that, since it was not the first time of getting wind of the petition, it was an insult to the House Committee for them to again send a team of lawyers with baseless excuses. The Committee therefore, described their actions as a deliberate delay and in contempt of the constitutional powers vested in the Committee”. 

The House Committee finally resolved to issue a 7 day ultimatum to the management of Binnance Holdings LTD., to file in the necessary correspondence and documents on or before Thursday, the 26th of February and appear before it on or before 4th of March 2024, failure of which, the Committee will “invoke all the constitutional powers vested in it and award appropriate sanctions”.