Nigeria’s markets regulator has ordered the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange Binance to halt its operations in the country, saying a local unit that courted Nigerian investors through a website was illegal.
“Binance Nigeria Limited is hereby directed to immediately stop soliciting Nigerian investors in any form whatsoever,” the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said in a statement dated June 9. It said the company was not registered or regulated, making it illegal.
Binance could not be immediately reached for comment.
Last year, Nigeria’s SEC published a set of regulations for digital assets, signalling Africa’s most populous country was trying to find a middle ground between an outright ban on crypto assets and their unregulated use.
That was after Nigeria’s central bank in 2021 banned banks and financial institutions from dealing in or facilitating transactions in digital currencies.
Nigeria’s young, tech-savvy population has eagerly adopted cryptocurrencies, for example using peer-to-peer trading offered by crypto exchanges to avoid the financial sector ban.
Meanwhile, the US affiliate of Binance said it was halting dollar deposits and gave customers until Tuesday to withdraw their dollar funds, after the US securities regulator asked a court to freeze its assets.
Binance.US, the purportedly independent partner of Binance, said in a tweet on Thursday that its banking partners were preparing to stop dollar withdrawal channels as early as June 13.
The SEC sued Binance, its CEO and founder Changpeng Zhao, and Binance.US’s operator on Monday, in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown on the industry by US regulators. The SEC sued major US exchange Coinbase a day later.
Binance.US said in the tweeted customer notice that it would no longer accept dollar deposits as part of plans to change to a “crypto-only exchange”. It called the SEC’s civil charges “unjustified” and said it would “vigorously defend” itself.
© Thomson Reuters 2023
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