U.S. Lawmakers Visit Detained Binance Exec in Nigeria, Call for Release

The two House members said Tigran Gambaryan is being wrongfully detained and should be freed.

AccessTimeIconJun 21, 2024 at 10:30 a.m. UTC
Updated Jun 21, 2024 at 8:06 p.m. UTC
  • Rep. French Hill and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan visited Tigran Gambaryan in Kuje prison.
  • Hill asked the U.S. embassy to advocate for the humanitarian release of the Binance executive.
  • Gambaryan has been detained in Nigeria since February.

U.S. lawmakers Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Penn.) visited Tigran Gambaryan in a Nigerian prison on Wednesday as the Binance executive remains incarcerated facing money-laundering charges due to his involvement with the crypto exchange.

Visiting the country to discuss anti-terrorism efforts,"we also had the opportunity to advocate for an American that's been wrongfully detained by the Nigerian government in the horrible prison that we got to go see, that's called Kuje prison," Hill said in a video posted to his X account on Thursday.

Hill said Gambaryan, who has been held since arriving in February for talks with the government, is suffering from malaria and double pneumonia. The executive reported he has lost significant weight and is being denied access to adequate medical attention, Hill said.

Shortly after being detained, Gambaryan was moved to the prison, whose inmates include members of the terror group Boko Haram. Another Binance executive held with him has since escaped.

"We have a taskforce in Congress that is on Americans wrongfully detained abroad, or held hostage. Clearly in our view, Tigran fits in that camp," Hill said in the video. "We want him home and we can let Binance, his employer, deal with the Nigerians."

Hill added that he had asked the U.S. embassy to advocate for the humanitarian release of Gambaryan because of the "horrible conditions in the prison, his innocence and his health."

Hill was among the signatories of a June 4 letter to President Joe Biden urging him to work for Gambaryan's release. Two days later, over 100 former prosecutors wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to echo this message, Hill said.

Meantime, the trial continues. Yesterday, the cross examination of a witness from the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission began. The case continues today.

CORRECT (June 21, 12:15 UTC): Removes local media report of request for compensation from fourth paragraph after family says it's incorrect.

Edited by Sheldon Reback.


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Camomile Shumba

Camomile Shumba is a CoinDesk regulatory reporter based in the UK. She previously worked as an intern for Business Insider and Bloomberg News. She does not currently hold value in any digital currencies or projects.