Binance founder Changpeng "CZ" Zhao poses "no risk of flight" and should be allowed to return to the United Arab Emirates for now, a Thursday filing said.
The partially redacted document pushed back against a U.S. Department of Justice filing, arguing that Zhao should not be allowed to leave the U.S. ahead of his February sentencing after pleading guilty to one charge of violating the Bank Secrecy Act. Zhao has already demonstrated he won't be a flight risk by the very fact that he came to the U.S. to enter that plea, his attorneys argued. The Magistrate Judge overseeing his case, Judge Brian Tsuchida, already agreed that Zhao showing up to begin with is compelling, the filing said.
"Based on all the relevant facts, including Mr. Zhao’s voluntary self-surrender, his intent to resolve this case, and the sizable bail package he proposed, Judge Tsuchida found that Mr. Zhao presents no risk of flight, even while residing in the UAE," the filing said.
Binance pleaded guilty to multiple charges alongside Zhao earlier this week, agreeing to pay a massive $4.3 billion fine, appoint monitors to oversee its compliance program and review its past transactions and accept Zhao's resignation as CEO. Former Binance regional markets head Richard Teng has taken over as CEO.
Zhao was released on a $175 million personal recognizance bond on Tuesday. Still, his attorneys and the DOJ have been arguing over whether he can return to the UAE, where he is a citizen and where his family lives, or if he must stay in the U.S. If Zhao returns to the UAE, he must come back to the U.S. two weeks before sentencing.
The DOJ argued that Zhao could afford to lose the $15 million he put in a trust account and $5 million his guarantors put up. Zhao's attorneys said this argument ignores the financial commitment he and Binance made. Other DOJ arguments similarly ignore everything Zhao has already done, they said, such as flying to the U.S. to begin with.
"Against the weight of all this information and Judge Tsuchida consideration of it, the government provides no meritorious – or additional – basis to insist that Mr. Zhao remain in the United States away from his family for months between his plea and sentencing," the filing said.
Zhao's sentencing is currently scheduled for Feb. 23, 2024. He faces a potential 18-month prison term and agreed to pay a $50 million fine in his plea agreement.
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