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Court discharges Binance executives in FIRS tax evasion charge

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Man arraigned for allegedly stealing clothes worth N950, 000

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday, discharged the executive of Binance Holdings Limited, Tigran Gambaryan, and his fleeing colleague, Nadeem Anjarwalla, from the alleged tax evasion charge preferred against the company by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Justice Emeka Nwite, in a ruling, discharged and struck out Gambaryan and Anjarwalla’s names from the four-count charge after FIRS’ counsel, Moses Ideho, filed a fresh amended charge wherein Binance is listed as the sole defendant.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that while Binance is the 1st defendant in the May 17 amended charge filed by FIRS, Gambaryan was listed as the 2nd defendant while Anjarwalla’s name appeared as being at large.

When the matter was called on Friday, Gambaryan stepped into the dock.

Tonye Krukrubo, SAN, who appeared for Binance (1st defendant), then informed the court that the cryptocurrency firm had just appointed a representative in Nigeria.

The new appointee, who was also in court, stood up and announced his name as Ayodele Omotilewa.

Ideho confirmed that his office received a notice of appointment of a representative by Binance.

He said the notice was dated June 13, 2024, appointing Ayodele Omotilewa as its agent in the country.

The FIRS lawyer told the court that against the development, an amended four-count charge listing Binance Holdings Limited as sole defendant was filed on June 13.

He therefore applied that Omotilewa should be docked to take a plea on behalf of the company.

But Krukrubo disagreed with Ideho’s application.

The senior lawyer, who argued that the company’s representative was yet to be served with the fresh amended charge, said Omotilewa was only appearing in court for the first time.

“I think my learner friend should confirm whether he has served him or not first. We are not there yet,” he said.

He insisted that the prosecution had not served them with the amended charge.

Krukrubo said Omotilewa ought not to enter the dock.

According to him, he was only appointed for specific purposes; to receive processes.

“He is one of us; a legal practitioner,” he said.

He said the proper thing for the prosecution to do was to address the court on the charge he intended to substitute.

C.J. Caleb, who appeared for Gambaryan (2nd defendant), aligned himself with Krukrubo’s submission.

According to him, our jurisprudence for the criminal trial of a corporation as it stands today does not contemplate that a corporation or its representative should be in the dock.

“More importantly, the ACJA (Administration of Criminal Justice) Act, particularly Part 47, did not leave us in doubt on how a trial should proceed in respect of a corporation,” he said

Caleb said the Act also specified all that is required for a representative in a criminal trial, citing Sections 478, 481, 482 and 483.

“So I align with my learner colleague that the representative is enough to be in court but does have to be in the dock,” he said.

But Ideho disagreed, citing Section 481 of ACJA to back his argument.

“If my lord is to look carefully at the provisions of this section and subsection, a representative cannot just sit in the gallery and watch like a spectator how the trial is conducted.

“He should be in the dock because this is a criminal charge, not civil matter,” he said.

Reacting, Krukrubo argued that there was nowhere in the section cited by Ideho where it was said that a company’s representative must be in the dock.

“Section 481 is written in black and white and it does not say that a representative of a corporation must be in dock.

“What he is saying is not contemplated by ACJA,” he said.

Also speaking, Caleb argued that Section 418 of ACJA only talked about the power of a representative.

Justice Nwite then directed Ideho to move the latest application filed.

Moving his fresh amended charge, Ideho said the application was filed on June 13.

“We would like to amend and substitute the charge with the earlier one of May 17, 2024, which was our last amended charge, my lord,” he said.

The defendants’ lawyers did not oppose the application.

However, Caleb applied that the court should strike out the two earlier charges that listed his client, Gambaryan, as the 2nd defendant, dated March 22 and the amended charge dated May 17.

He said this was so because the name of his client was mentioned in the two charges.

The lawyer equally applied that Gambaryan should be discharged from the dock and from the proceedings in its entirety.

He further applied that the earlier order directing that the service of the charge on Binance be done through Gambaryan be vacated, having been in the court record that the company had appointed a representative.

Justice Nwite, in a ruling, granted the prosecution application for the substitution of the June 13 amended charge for the May 17 one.

The judge, who set aside the earlier order, directing Gambaryan to be served on behalf of the company., discharged him from the dock.

On the controversy of whether the Binance representative should be docked or not, the judge ordered the parties to file written addresses to state their arguments.

Justice Nwite adjourned the matter until July 12 for plea.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that in the latest amended charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/115/2024, while the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the complainant, Binance Holdings Limited is the sole defendant.

The charge is dated June 13 and filed June 14.

Count one alleged that while involved in carrying and offering services to subscribers on their platform, known as Binance, failed to register with the FIRS, for the purpose of paying all relevant taxes administered by the service.

The offence is punishable under Section 8 of the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act of 1993 (as Amended).

(NAN)

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Police arrest suspected vehicle, motorcycle snatcher in Kaduna

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The Police Command in Kaduna State, said its operatives have arrested a suspect with 30 different fabricated master keys of vehicles and motorcycles in Kaduna.

The command’s spokesperson, ASP Mansir Hassan, confirmed the arrest to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Kaduna.

Hassan said, “The suspect specialises in vehicle and motorcycle theft .

“In July 20, at about 0230hrs our personnel received a distress call that a shop was burgled.

“Upon receiving the information, our operatives immediately drafted to the area.”

He said on arriving at the scene, that the suspect, Zahradeenee Suleiman was arrested in the shop .

According to him, the suspect is a resident of Galma road, Tsugugi area of Sabon Gari Zaria Local Government Area of Kaduna State and 35 years old.

“Upon search, about 30 different sizes of keys of vehicle and motorcycles were recovered including two locally fabricated master keys in his possession,” Hassan said.

He added that the suspect was said to have specialised in the theft of vehicles and motorcycles.
Hassan said that the suspect would be charged to Court for prosecution after the completion of investigation.

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Biden condemns Russia’s 16-year sentence for U.S. reporter

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President Joe Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden has sharply criticised the 16-year sentence for U.S reporter Evan Gershkovich, imposed on Friday by a Russian court.

According to the president, Gershkovich was targeted by Russia “because he is a journalist and an American.”

Biden, in a statement released by the White House, said the reporter had “committed no crime.”

He added that the U.S. government will continue to fight for the Wall Street Journal reporter’s release as well as for all U.S. citizens unlawfully detained abroad.

“Journalism is not a crime,” Biden said, adding that both he and the United Nations have said that Russia is wrongfully detaining the reporter.

“We will continue to stand strong for press freedom in Russia and worldwide, and stand against all those who seek to attack the press or target journalists,” the U.S. president added.

(dpa/NAN)

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APC, Police disagree over attack on Okpebholo, Shaibu in Edo

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo Staten has accused the state police command of complicity in the attack on its Governorship Candidate, Sen. Monday Okpebholo and the reinstated deputy governor, Philip Shaibu.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that gunmen attacked the two on Thursday while exiting Benin Airport shortly after they arrived from Abuja aboard a chartered flight.

The party, during a press conference on Friday in Benin, called for the sack of the Commissioner of Police, Funso Adegboye.

Kassim Afegbua, Director of Media, APC Campaign Council for the Sept. 21 election, said the ruthless shooting and killing of a policeman was witnessed by the police chief.

Afegbua said the party had petitioned the Inspector-General of Police to look into the case and check how the police commissioner undermined the role of the police.

According to him, some members of the party, who saw the commissioner at the airport shared the intelligence of what was about to happen, but unfortunately, he allegedly ignored it.

The director of media described the attack on the candidate as an assassination attempt as well as a disdain for peace that the state and its people were known for.

Reacting, Adegboye exonerated himself of any wrongdoing during the mayhem.

He refuted a claim that intelligence was shared with him ahead of the attack, saying there was no crisis throughout his stay at the airport.

The commissioner noted, however, that an investigation was ongoing and those whose names had been mentioned in the incident would be arrested soon.

(NAN)

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