Binance Founder CZ Stuck in U.S. for the Moment

Changpeng Zhao was set to return to the UAE, where his wife and children live, but a district judge stayed this part of his bond release for now.

AccessTimeIconNov 27, 2023 at 7:05 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 5:40 p.m. UTC

Binance founder Changpeng "CZ" Zhao must remain in the U.S., at least for the moment, as a federal judge considers a U.S. Department of Justice motion that would require him to remain in the country until he is sentenced early next year.

Zhao pleaded guilty to violating the Bank Secrecy Act last week and resigned as CEO of Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange by volume. The exchange itself pleaded guilty to charges of violating sanctions and money transmission laws, agreeing to pay a $4.3 billion fine and embed compliance monitors who can report back to the U.S. government.

After Zhao pleaded guilty, a magistrate judge granted his release on a $175 million personal recognizance bond. Zhao put $15 million in a trust account and had three guarantors put up over $5 million in collateral to secure the bond. Under the terms of the bond release, he was free to return to the UAE, where his wife and children also reside. District Judge Richard Jones stayed this part of the ruling on Monday.

However, attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice moved to keep Zhao in the U.S., arguing he could be a flight risk if he leaves the country, noting that he still has a vast amount of wealth and that there's no extradition treaty between the U.S. and the UAE. They are not pushing to put him in jail ahead of his Feb. 23, 2024 sentencing. Judge Jones did not indicate if he would schedule a hearing or when he might otherwise rule on the motion in Monday's hearing.

Zhao's attorneys argued that he had already demonstrated his intent to take responsibility by coming to the U.S. to plead guilty in the first place.

His wife and children cannot relocate for a few months just for sentencing, they said.

Zhao faces anywhere from a few months to as many as 10 years in prison, the DOJ said, though Zhao can appeal any sentence longer than 18 months.

He also agreed to pay a $50 million fine as part of his plea agreement.

Edited by Aoyon Ashraf.


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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.