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

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The House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes intends to exercise its constitutional powers against Binance Holdings Limited if she fails to appear at its public hearing to respond to a series of allegations of crime and infractions against Nigerians, as well as a complete disregard for existing laws governing business and financial operations in the country.

Binance Holdings Limited, the operator of Nigeria’s Digital Assets Exchange, has been operating in Nigeria for over 6 years, reportedly without adherence to financial regulatory frameworks, and has been accused of exploiting Nigerians and committing other financial crimes.

Remember that a coalition of civil society organisations, led by the Niger Delta Youth Council Worldwide and Empowerment for Unemployed Youths, had petitioned the Committee to investigate Binance Holdings Limited’s operations.

During the public hearing, the committee chairman, Hon Ginger Onwusibe, expressed his disappointment with Binance Holdings Limited’s Chief Executive, Mr Richard Teng, for refusing to appear despite multiple requests.

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

However, rather than the Company’s Management team appearing before the House Committee as required by law, a team of lawyers was dispatched instead. The lawyers were escorted out because the letter was addressed specifically to the Managing Director rather than the legal team, and a new hearing date was set for February 19th, 2024 to allow Binnance management to make a fresh appearance, but they again sent a legal team under the guise that they had just received a copy of the petition and needed time to review it.

According to the documents given by our correspondents, rather than appearing before the committee, Binance requested a pre-hearing meeting, which was held, and the infractions were read to their representatives.

Hon. Ginger Onwusibe, Chairman of the Committee, reaffirmed the Committee’s commitment to combating financial crimes, noting that “the Federal Republic of Nigeria constitution has empowered us to protect Nigerians from financial crimes, particularly those committed 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 firm with over 10 million Nigerians on your platform without paying taxes and having a physical office where Nigerians can file complaints if they have any problems with your service. The era of exploitation is over and all culprits must be held accountable’.

In response to the company’s arrogant attitude, the Committee members “expressed disappointment in Binnance management’s inability to appear before it for the second time.” The branded as absurd argument that it was impromptu to obtain a visa for the management because visas are now granted upon arrival and a petition takes little time to process.

“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 Binnance Holdings LTD. management to file the necessary correspondence and documents on or before Thursday, February 26th, and appear before it on or before March 4th, 2024, failing which the Committee will “invoke all the constitutional powers vested in it and award appropriate sanctions”.