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Nigeria seeks to prolong detention of Binance executives

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows smartphone with displayed Binance logo

By MacDonald Dzirutwe

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigerian authorities have asked an Abuja court to extend the detention of two Binance executives caught up in the country's cryptocurrency crackdown after an initial warrant used to hold them lapsed this week, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Binance's head of

financial crime compliance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan who is Binance's regional manager for Africa, flew to Nigeria following the country's decision to ban several cryptocurrency trading websites, but they were detained on arrival on Feb. 26.

They have not been charged with any crime.

The crackdown follows a period after several cryptocurrency websites emerged as platforms of choice for trading the Nigerian currency, which has suffered chronic dollar shortages.

Court documents seen by Reuters show that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria's anti-graft agency, was initially granted an order to detain the two for 14 days to facilitate investigations.

The order expired on Tuesday and the men have not been released because the EFCC has asked a chief magistrate's court in Abuja to extend their detention while investigations continue, said a person involved in the case but not authorised to speak to the press.

The two executives' lawyers say there are no grounds for keeping them in detention, the person added.

Another person close to the men's families said a hearing

was set for March 20 when the court can either dismiss or

grant the extension request on the same day or later.

The spokespersons for the EFCC and the Office of the National Security Adviser, which is also involved in the probe, did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, said in a post on X on Wednesday that it was working with Nigerian authorities to bring back its executives.

The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that the EFCC had asked Binance to share data on its 100 top users in Nigeria.

Binance has not commented on this.

Anjarwalla's wife, Elahe, told Reuters that the two men were

being kept in a guarded house in the capital Abuja and she had

been able to speak to her husband on the phone at least once a

day, although he can only speak in the presence of a guard.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe in Lagos; additional reporting by Camillus Eboh and Felix Onuah in Abuja; Editing by Elisha Bala-Gbogbo and Susan Fenton)