Thu, 18 Jul 2024

 

Tax evasion: Binance executive’s absence stalls arraignment
 
By: Abara Blessing Oluchi
Wed, 22 May 2024   ||   Nigeria,
 

The absence of detained Binance executive, Tigran Gambaryan, in court on Wednesday, stalled his arraignment before Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

The prosecution counsel, Moses Idehu, appearing for the Federal Inland Revenue Service, informed the court that he didn’t know why the defendant wasn’t in court after the judge asked about Gambaryan’s whereabouts.

Idehu said the correctional service was supposed to bring him for the arraignment but since they were absent, the court should stand down the matter for an hour for them to ascertain why they weren’t present.

“My Lord, he was supposed to be produced from custody but I don’t know the reason he is not here. We have been trying to get to members of the correctional centre.

“I ask that we stand down this matter so that we can confirm if they are on their way or the reason why they are not here yet”.

Both the 1st and 2nd defendant’s counsels, however, objected to the court standing down the matter.

The 2nd defendant’s (Gambaryan) counsel, Chukwuka Ikwuazom, (SAN), held that the matter cannot be stood down as it is the duty of the correctional centre to bring Gambaryan to court.

Idehu, in return, tried to blame the defendant’s counsel for the stall in arraignment as he stated “On the last adjourned date we could have proceeded with arraignment but the defence counsel requested an adjournment. It is unfortunate he (Gambaryan) is not here my lord and it is not my fault. Since he is not here we can adjourn to come back another day and we will ensure that we communicate with the prison service to bring him here and bring him early enough.

T.J Krukrubo (SAN), who stated that he was appearing under protest for the 1st defendant (Binance Holdings Limited), objected to standing down the matter while he insisted that the prosecution should have confirmed earlier if the correctional services were bringing the defendant to court or not.

Ikwuazom, on his part, faulted the prosecution for the defendant’s absence.

“I do not see any reason to stand down the matter. The prosecution cannot seriously be saying that a person they brought to court to answer a criminal charge and who is under the custody of the Federal government, whom he is representing.

“He cannot say he does not know why the defendant is not in court and it is not his fault.”

He also noted that he was yet to see the amended charge filed against his client by the prosecution as the 3rd defendant, Nadeem Anjarwalla, was still mentioned in the suit.

According to him, the matter cannot go on unless all defendants in the suit are arraigned.

“At the last sitting the prosecution said he had amended the charge and I did not get an opportunity to see the amended charge and the 3rd defendant who has not been served is still indicated as a defendant in the suit with the word at large in bracket in the suit. My lord within my own understanding of the law if the 3rd defendant is still mentioned, he still has to be arraigned before the matter can go on.”

He also requested that as stated in the constitution, the charge should be in the language the defendant understands.

After listening to all parties in the suit, Justice Nwite adjourned the matter till June 14, 2024.

Recall that at the last proceedings, Idehu had informed the court that he filed an amended four-count charge against the defendants.

He said the amendment was necessary following Anjarwalla’s escape from custody.

He said it was a much-needed necessity to amend the charge to reflect Anjarwalla’s position in the instant charge since he has fled.

In the charge dated and filed March 22, the defendants are facing a four-count charge bordering on tax evasion.

 

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