June 18, 2024

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Can Binance founder Changpeng Zhao leave U.S. ahead of sentencing?

2 min read

The lawyers for former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao insist the crypto billionaire is not a flight risk. The Justice Department isn’t so sure.

On Tuesday, the U.S. government announced criminal charges against Binance and its leader. The world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties, among the largest fines in corporate history. It also pleaded guilty to anti-money laundering and U.S. sanctions violations. But it avoided a death sentence and will be allowed to continue operating.

Binance failed to report over 100,000 suspicious transactions with organizations the U.S. described as terrorist groups, among them Hamas, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, according to U.S. authorities. And it illegally profited by letting “darknet” actors and ransomware hackers operate on the platform, they added.

When contacted by Fortune about the settlement, a spokesperson for Binance shared a blog post reading in part: “These resolutions acknowledge our company’s responsibility for historical, criminal compliance violations, and allow our company to turn the page on a challenging yet transformative chapter of learning and growth.”

As for Zhao, the billionaire agreed to step down as CEO and pay a $50 million fine, and he pleaded guilty to failure to protect against money laundering. Scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 23, he faces up to a decade in prison but under a plea deal is expected to get no more than 18 months.

Zhao, a citizen of Canada and the United Arab Emirates, hopes to travel to his home in the UAE ahead of the sentencing, with his lawyers saying he wants to prepare his partner and three children for his sentencing. But if he decides to never come back, prosecutors warned on Wednesday, the U.S. government might be unable to secure his return because it has no extradition treaty with the UAE—and the billionaire has “significant assets,” it noted.

“In the vast majority of cases, a…

Steve Mollman

2023-11-25 18:41:12

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