Binance Founder Changpeng 'CZ' Zhao Stuck in U.S. Until Sentencing

Zhao pleaded guilty to a federal charge last month.

AccessTimeIconDec 8, 2023 at 1:47 a.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 6:25 p.m. UTC

Binance founder and former CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) cannot return to the United Arab Emirates before his sentencing, a federal judge ruled Thursday night.

Zhao, who pleaded guilty to one charge of violating the Bank Secrecy Act last month, is set to be scheduled in February 2024. He was released on a $175 million personal recognizance bond, putting up some cash in escrow and having guarantors put up around $5 million worth of assets as collateral. While Zhao's bond originally allowed him to return to the UAE, where he, his children and his partner all live, prosecutors argued he was a flight risk and should not be permitted to leave the U.S.

District Judge Richard Jones, of the Western District of Washington, agreed with the Department of Justice.

"The defendant has articulated justifications that in most cases would cause the government’s motion to be denied," the judge wrote. "However, a critical feature of the government’s motion is the extent of the defendant’s enormous wealth and absence of an extradition treaty with the UAE. In addition, the defendant’s family resides in the UAE and there is no indication he has any other ties to the United States. While the defendant has indicated he will be asking for a lesser sentence, the government has indicated it may be asking for as much as 18 months of incarceration. Consequently, the defendant is not facing an insignificant sentence."

Zhao faces potentially up to 18 months, though he may serve as few as 10, the judge, who accepted the guilty plea earlier this week, noted.

Zhao stepped down from Binance last month after the global crypto exchange pleaded guilty to violating anti-money laundering and money transmitter rules. Binance agreed to pay a $4.3 billion fine as part of its own plea deal.

Edited by Bradley Keoun.


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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.