Jun 6, 2024 - Business

Scoop: Ex-federal agents and prosecutors ask White House to help imprisoned crypto exec

Tigran Gambaryan in court

Tigran Gambaryan in a Nigerian court on April 4. Photo: David Exodus/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

A group of over 100 former federal prosecutors and federal agents on Thursday sent a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken, asking that the U.S. government "step up its efforts" to secure the release of crypto executive Tigran Gambaryan from a Nigerian prison, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: This increases pressure on the State Department, one day after it received a similar letter from 16 members of Congress.

Catch up quick: Gambaryan is a U.S. citizen, head of financial crime compliance at Binance, and a former special agent with the Internal Revenue Service.

  • He traveled to Nigeria after the country accused Binance of contributing to a crash of the local currency. After arriving, he was arrested and charged with such crimes as tax evasion and money laundering.
  • His supporters argue that Gambaryan is a scapegoat at best and political prisoner at worst.
  • This includes the letter signees, many of whom worked with Gambaryan on investigations ranging from drug trafficking to child pornography.
  • Nigerian officials have defended their actions.

What they're saying: The letter stresses that Gambaryan is being held at a prison that has "historically housed Nigeria's worst criminals," and that he's been denied adequate medical care (despite recently collapsing in court, possibly due to malaria).

  • They write: "A former U.S. federal agent has been effectively held hostage in deplorable conditions for nearly three months by a foreign power in an apparent attempt to compel his employer to settle a matter that does not implicate him."

Behind the scenes: The letter was spearheaded by Katie Haun, a former federal prosecutor and current crypto venture capitalist, as part of a broader coalition seeking to secure Gambaryan's release.

Read the letter, via DocumentCloud:

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