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Nigeria: Court insists Binance executive can face trial on behalf of firm

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In an ongoing tax evasion case, a Nigerian court decided on Friday that Binance executive, Tigran Gambaryan, may go to trial on the cryptocurrency exchange’s behalf.

Binance and executives Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and head of financial crimes compliance, and British-Kenyan national Nadeem Anjarwalla, a regional manager for Africa, face four counts of tax evasion. They are also accused of participating in specialized financial transactions without a license and laundering more than $35 million in another case.

All of them have entered not-guilty pleas on the allegations of money laundering. Following the court hearing on Friday, Binance’s attorney chose not to comment. The attorney for Gambaryan was similarly silent.

“We are deeply disappointed that Tigran Gambaryan, who has no decision-making power in the company, continues to be detained,” a Binance spokesperson said in a statement on Friday after the court hearing.

“These charges against him are completely meritless. He should be freed while discussions continue between Binance and Nigerian government officials.”

Gambaryan is still being held while Anjarwalla left the nation in March. The office of Nigeria’s security adviser has declared that it is collaborating with Interpol to pursue Anjarwalla’s detention.

After its executives were imprisoned as part of a crackdown on cryptocurrencies in February after being invited to the African nation for talks with officials, the CEO of Binance has warned Nigeria of establishing a dangerous precedent.

Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has announced that Gambaryan may face prosecution on behalf of the exchange; Binance has not been accused in the tax evasion case.

According to prior statements from Gambaryan’s attorney, Gambaryan was “neither a director, partner, nor company secretary” and did not have any formal authorization from Binance to take on the accusations on the firm’s behalf.

Judge Emeka Nwite decided on Friday that Gambaryan, who is Binance’s chief financial compliance officer and was lawfully designated to represent the company in a meeting in Nigeria, should be served with the charges against Binance.

On Wednesday, Gambaryan is scheduled to appear in court and enter a plea on Binance’s behalf. On Friday, Gambaryan’s request for bail in the money laundering case was turned down. As the nation struggled with ongoing dollar shortages, cryptocurrency websites became the go-to venues for trading the Nigerian naira. Nigeria has blamed Binance for its currency problems.

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Nigerian govt opens bid for 17 new oil blocks

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The Nigerian government has declared that 17 deep offshore oil blocks would be included in the 2024 Nigerian Oil Fields Licensing Round.

This was revealed at the pre-bid conference for the 2024 licencing round in Lagos by Gbenga Komolafe, the chief executive officer of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission.

In a statement he signed and released in Abuja on Tuesday, Komolafe provided updates on the 2022/2023 and 2024 licencing rounds, stating that 17 deep offshore blocks had been added to the 2024 Licensing Round.

He said, “In pursuit of the commission’s commitment to derive value from the country’s abundant oil and gas reserves and increase production, the commission has been working assiduously with multi-client companies to undertake more exploratory activities to acquire more data to foster and encourage further investment in the Nigerian upstream sector.

“As a result of additional data acquired in respect of deep offshore blocks, the commission has added 17 deep offshore blocks to the 2024 Licensing Round. Further details on the blocks can be found on the bid portal.”

He further revealed that “by the published guidelines, we had earlier indicated that some of the assets on offer should be applied for as clusters, namely: PPL 300-CS & PPL 301-CS, PPL 2000 and PPL 2001. Bidders are hereby advised that they may, at their option, bid for those blocks as clusters or as single units.”

Several deep offshore blocks were recently offered for the 2022–2023 mini-bid round, and the Nigeria 2024 Licencing Round also included offers for other blocks that cut between onshore, continental shelf, and deep offshore terrains.

In the 2024 marginal fields bid round, the government specifically requested investors to submit bids for 12 oil blocks and seven deep offshore assets on May 8. It was also announced on June 12, 2024, that the Federal government has raised the number of oil blocks for grabs in the 2024 marginal bid round.

The head of NUPRC added that the schedule for the 2024 Licencing Round has been adjusted to enable interested investors to take advantage of the increased chances.

He said, “Registration/submission of pre-qualification documents which was initially scheduled to close on June 25, 2024, has been extended by 10 days and will now close on July 5, 2024.

“Data access/data purchase/evaluation/bid preparation and submission which was initially scheduled to open on July 4, 2024, and close on 29/11/24 will now start on July 8, 2024, and close on 29/11/24 as previously scheduled.

“All other dates in the published 2024 licencing round schedule remain the same unless otherwise communicated.”

The current government intends to increase Nigeria’s oil production to 2.6 million barrels per day by the year 2027. Only 1.5 million barrels per day is the nation’s current Opec+ objective.

Nigeria began an international roadshow for the new licensing cycle in the United States on May 7 in Houston, Texas, with a stop in Miami, Florida on May 14.

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Central bank official says Botswana’s 4.2% growth target under threat

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Citing both internal and international limitations, a top central bank official warned on Tuesday that Botswana’s economy might not develop at the 4.2% annual rate set by the government.

In a budget speech given in February, Finance Minister Peggy Serame predicted a 4.2% increase in GDP and stated that the government anticipated growth to pick up speed starting in 2023 as a result of the diamond sector’s improved performance. The GDP increased by 2.7% in 2023.

Nonetheless, Botswana’s mining industry, which is primarily focused on diamonds, is still having difficulty, which is indicative of the weak worldwide market.

In the first quarter of 2024, sales at Debswana Diamond Company, a joint venture between the government of the southern African nation and Anglo-American’s De Beers business, decreased by almost 48% year over year.

“From what we have seen in the first half of the year, unfavourable global economic conditions … as well as domestic structural constraints, one would expect that we are unlikely to attain the projected economic growth,” Innocent Molalapata, the central bank’s director of research and financial stability, told an economic briefing.

“A downward revision of the growth target might therefore be required,” Molalapata stated, noting that the first quarter’s mining output fell by almost 27%.

The finance ministry is usually the one to provide accurate GDP growth projections, not the Bank of Botswana. According to IMF projections, Botswana’s GDP will expand by 3.6% in 2024.

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