Binance founder CZ must stay in US until sentencing, judge orders
Binance founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao has been ordered to stay in the United States until his sentencing in February, with a federal judge determining there’s too much of a flight risk if the former exchange CEO is allowed to return to the United Arab Emirates.
On Dec. 7, Seattle District Court Judge Richard Jones ordered Zhao to stay in the U.S. until his Feb. 23, 2024 sentencing date. He faces up to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to money laundering on Nov. 21 and has agreed not to appeal any potential sentence up to that length.
“The defendant has enormous wealth and property abroad, and no ties to the United States,” Judge Jones wrote, agreeing with earlier arguments from federal prosecutors who said they “would not be able to secure his return” if Zhao decided not to return to the United States.
“His family resides in the UAE and it appears that he has favored status in the UAE. Under these circumstances the Court finds that the defendant has not established by clear and convincing evidence that he is not likely to flee if he returns to the UAE,” Judge Jones added.
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“Based on the foregoing reason, the Court GRANTS the government’s motion, and the defendant shall remain in the continental United States during the period between his plea and sentencing.”
On Dec. 6, Judge Jones accepted Zhao’s guilty plea submitted almost two weeks earlier but did not yet make a decision on allowing him to return to Dubai where he resides.
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Zhao is currently on a $175 million bond, which Judge Jones’ said “appears to be largely comprised of assets beyond the government’s reach.”
He added the bond conditions allow Zhao to freely travel in the U.S. and allow his family to visit him, which he called “hardly burdensome impositions on the defendant’s freedom.”
In November, Binance and Zhao settled with U.S. regulators for $4.3 billion and admitted to running an unlicensed money-transmitting business and violating the Bank Secrecy Act. The settlement also saw Zhao step down as CEO.
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