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World Bank president, David Malpass, concerned over Zambia’s debt restructuring stalemate

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The president of the World Bank, David Malpass has expressed concern over recent efforts by Southern African country, Zambia to have its foreign debt restructured.

Malpass said he remained bothered about the debt restructuring stalemate in Zambia and stressed that the bank is working with India and the International Monetary Fund on the G20 debt restructuring process.

Zambia was the first African country to default on its debt during the coronavirus pandemic. Of the total debt, China is the largest foreign creditor.

Zambia is pushing hard to complete the restructuring of nearly $15 billion of external debt this quarter and is “in active engagement” with its largest bilateral creditor China. The Zambian finance minister last week hinted at scheduled meetings with Chinese officials on the debt situation.

Another African country that defaulted on its external debts was Ghana in December but the West African country has since sealed a domestic debt swap and requested a restructuring of its bilateral debts via the G20’s Common Framework vehicle.

Beyond Africa, South Asian neighbors Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are also seeking urgent IMF funds due to an economic slowdown caused by the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.

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Nigerian court voids tax evasion charges against executives of Binance

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A Nigerian court dismissed tax evasion charges against two executives of Binance on Friday, following the appointment of a local agent by the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world to represent it in all legal proceedings about the accusations.

The accusations of tax evasion were refuted by Binance, Tigran Gambaryan, an American citizen who oversees financial crimes compliance for the company, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a regional manager for Africa and a native of Kenya.

The court’s ruling, according to Binance, demonstrated that Gambaryan was “not a decision-maker at Binance and does not need to be held for Binance to resolve issues with the Nigerian government.”

“We await the court’s ruling on this, discharging Tigran from this matter completely,” a Binance spokesperson said.

Last month, an Abuja court determined that Gambaryan, who is representing Binance, might potentially face trial in the tax evasion case. When its executives were invited to Nigeria and then detained as part of an anti-crypto campaign, Binance CEO Richard Teng accused the country of setting a dangerous precedent in May. The company is opposing the proceedings because it allegedly evades taxes and launders money.

Binance and its executives, Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British Kenyan who works as Binance’s regional manager for Africa, are accused of four counts of tax evasion. Failing to register for taxes with Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service is one of the allegations.

Anjarwalla departed the nation in March, but Gambaryan has been detained since February. The two executives were dropped from the tax evasion lawsuit by Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service, but they and Binance are still accused of money laundering.

Binance declared that the allegations ought to be withdrawn. Both Anjarwalla and Gambaryan refute these accusations as well.

Nigeria has laid the blame for its currency problems on Binance. The country’s currency sank to a record low as a result of persistent dollar shortages, and cryptocurrency websites became the preferred means of trading the naira.

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Ghana’s bondholders, govt to discuss debt restructuring next week

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Following a deal struck with official creditors earlier this week, Ghana and its bondholders will resume negotiations next week to work out a debt restructuring plan for $13 billion in foreign notes, according to four sources cited by Reuters.

Ghana, a producer of cocoa and gold, failed to pay back the majority of its $30 billion in external debt in 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine, and sharp increases in interest rates worldwide that increased the cost of borrowing. It had initiated formal negotiations in mid-March with two groups of bondholders: one comprising regional African banks and another of Western asset managers and hedge funds.

However, due to the planned deal’s failure to meet the requirements of the International Monetary Fund’s debt sustainability analysis (DSA), negotiations came to a standstill in April. Currently, both parties are under pressure to finalize an agreement before the elections in December.

Hours after the government and official creditors wrapped up their agreement on Tuesday, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke with Reuters, government advisors had gotten in touch with their counterparts at the bondholder organization.

The individuals, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed that the government advisors provided information on both the official creditor agreement and specifics from the most recent debt sustainability review from the IMF.

“People are incentivized,” one of the sources said. “Things can happen quickly.”

An official response is yet to be grated by Ghana’s Finance Ministry on the disclosure. Meanwhile, financial advisors are presently examining the given information, according to two of the sources, who also stated that it will serve as the basis for discussions starting next week.

Prior negotiations to establish an agreement that satisfied the IMF’s debt-sustainability targets, which were outlined in the initial assessment of the fund’s $3 billion loan program with Ghana, broke down with two parties that held about $13 billion of the country’s foreign bonds.

Nevertheless, given that Ghana’s economy has since recovered, two sources stated that they anticipated the agreement would be in line with the fund’s modified DSA in light of the second review’s conclusion in early April.

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