Binance Founder Changpeng Zhao Apologizes Ahead of Sentencing, 161 Others Send Letters of Support

Zhao is scheduled to be sentenced on April 30 after he and Binance settled charges with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in November 2023.

AccessTimeIconApr 24, 2024 at 11:18 a.m. UTC
Updated Apr 24, 2024 at 4:15 p.m. UTC

Binance founder and former chief executive Changpeng "CZ” Zhao apologized for his “poor decisions” and accepted “full responsibility” for his actions in a letter to the judge overseeing his case filed on Tuesday.

Zhao is scheduled to be sentenced on April 30 after he and Binance settled charges with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in November 2023. Despite Zhao waiving the right to appeal any sentence up to 18 months back then, the DOJ has now sought a 36-month sentence.

In the letter addressed to the U.S. Judge from the Western District of Washington, Richard A. Jones, Zhao said, "There is no excuse for my failure to establish the necessary compliance controls at Binance” and gave an assurance that this would be his only “encounter with the criminal justice system.”

Going forward, Zhao said, he wanted to support biotech startups and the youth. Along with Zhao’s letter, there were 161 other letters of support seeking leniency from family members, friends and others.

Zhao’s sister, Jessica Zhao, who was a former Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, said that although her brother has made mistakes, he lives to do well for others. She cited the example of the FTX fallout and said Zhao ensured Binance never misused any customer funds.

He Yi, another Binance co-founder and mother of CZ’s three children, wrote, “If the cryptocurrency industry is compared to the Wild West, then CZ is the guardian of this wilderness.”

“Even the U.S. has not decided how to regulate and define this industry,” Yi wrote. As a founder who has never managed a company of this size, he was sure to encounter blind spots.”

His wife Yang Weiqing, with whom Zhao raised two children, stated the example of how Binance donated tens of millions of yen to the disaster-stricken areas of Japan in 2018, despite having withdrawn from the Japanese market just months before.

Zhao’s children, Rachel and Ryan, both students in U.S. universities, provided anecdotes of a supportive father and asked the Judge not to define Zhao's character solely through this one incident.

A notable letter of support came from Tigran Gambaryan, Binance’s Head of Financial Crime Compliance and a former special agent in the U.S. Department of Treasury, who is languishing in a Nigerian jail at the moment in a dispute between Binance and Nigeria. The letter was written on January 1, 2024, before he was arrested.

“While acknowledging CZ’s prior missteps, I can attest to his integrity, business insight, and philanthropic actions have had a ripple effect, influencing not only Binance’s corporate philosophy but also positively impacting lives globally,” Gambaryan wrote.

Letters of support also came from Max S. Baucus, former U.S. Ambassador to China, Professor Jeremy R. Cooperstock, McGill University, Associate Professor Ronghui Gu, Columbia University, Morgan Stanley Managing Director Sean Yang, and members of the ruling family in the United Arab Emirates.

Nikhilesh De contributed to this story.

Edited by Parikshit Mishra.


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Amitoj Singh

Amitoj Singh is a CoinDesk reporter.