Judge Accepts Binance CEO CZ’s Guilty Plea – A federal judge has approved Binance founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao’s admission of guilt for money laundering, but the decision on whether he can depart the United States before his sentencing in February is pending. In a filing to a Seattle District Court on December 6, Judge Richard Jones confirmed his acceptance of Zhao’s admission of guilt to one count of Bank Secrecy Act violations.
Zhao had submitted this plea on November 21, concurrently with Binance reaching a $4.3 billion settlement with United States agencies. As part of the settlement agreement, Zhao resigned from his position as CEO of Binance and paid $150 million to regulators. “This Court, having considered the Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge, to which there has no timely objection accepts the plea of guilty of the defendant,” Judge Jones wrote.
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“The defendant is adjudged guilty of such offense.” Zhao is scheduled for sentencing on February 23, 2024, potentially facing up to 18 months in prison. Currently out on a $175 million bond, this would have permitted him to return to the United Arab Emirates, his place of residence. Nevertheless, federal prosecutors oppose granting Zhao permission to depart the United States.
Asserting that they would face challenges ensuring his return, given the absence of an extradition treaty with the UAE. They express concerns that Zhao, with his wealth, could potentially reside there indefinitely. “He has three young children and a partner in the UAE; once in the UAE and faced with the prospect of traveling back to the United States to face up to 18 months in prison, he may elect to instead simply stay in the UAE with his family,” prosecutors said.
Zhao has contested the travel restriction, asserting that he “poses no risk of flight” and emphasizing his responsibility by voluntarily flying from the UAE to the United States. On November 27, Judge Jones issued an order, preventing Zhao from traveling to the UAE until the court ruled on a motion for review from the U.S. government.