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Tax evasion trial of Binance executives postponed until June 14 by Nigerian court

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A Nigerian court Wednesday postponed the tax evasion case against Binance until next month, when the cryptocurrency exchange and two of its officials might potentially be charged, according to the judge.

Authorities were unable to bring U.S. citizen and Binance head of financial crime compliance Tigran Gambaryan to court, which caused the case to standstill. Gambaryan did not give a justification for missing the courtroom.

An Abuja court decided on Friday that Gambaryan, representing Binance, may go to trial in the tax evasion case. In May, Binance CEO Richard Teng charged that Nigeria was creating a hazardous precedent when its executives were invited to the nation and subsequently taken into custody as part of an anti-crypto campaign. The business is contesting the proceedings because it is accused of money laundering and tax evasion.

Four charges of tax evasion are brought against Binance and its executives, Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British Kenyan who serves as Binance’s regional manager for Africa. One of the charges is failing to register for taxes with the Federal Inland Revenue Service of Nigeria.

Despite Anjarwalla’s March escape from detention, the lawsuit still lists him as “at large,” which might delay the trial because Nigerian law mandates that all parties must be served before the case can move forward, according to Chukwuka Ikwuazom, the attorney for Gambaryan.

Moses Ideho, a revenue service attorney, stated that Gambaryan should have been brought before the court by the Nigerian jail service and that he was unaware of the reason for his absence. The potential arraignment of Binance and Gambaryan has been postponed until June 14 by Judge Emeka Nwite.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, has charged Binance and the executives with laundering over $35 million in addition to the tax evasion case. On Thursday, there will be a money laundering trial. In the wake of Gambaryan’s detention, Binance has declared that it is closely collaborating with Nigerian authorities.

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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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