Seattle, WA – November 24, 2023
Lawyers representing former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao are urging U.S. District Judge Richard Jones to dismiss the Justice Department’s request preventing Zhao from returning to his home in the United Arab Emirates until his sentencing for violating anti-money laundering requirements.
In a filing on Thursday, Zhao’s legal team requested Judge Jones to uphold the bail conditions set by a magistrate judge on Tuesday, allowing Zhao, a citizen of the UAE and Canada, to depart the U.S. while awaiting sentencing.
Zhao resigned as CEO of Binance on Tuesday after pleading guilty to willfully causing the cryptocurrency exchange to fail in maintaining an “effective anti-money laundering program.”
U.S. authorities have accused Binance of breaching anti-money laundering and sanctions laws, alleging that the platform failed to report more than 100,000 suspicious transactions involving entities identified as terrorist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, al Qaeda, and Hamas.
As part of a plea deal, Binance agreed to a payment exceeding $4.3 billion, while Zhao agreed to a $150 million penalty to “the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.” Prosecutors, in a Wednesday filing, stated that Zhao could face up to 18 months in prison.
The Justice Department, seeking a reversal by Monday, objected to the decision of U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida allowing Zhao to return to the UAE before his Feb. 23 sentencing upon a $175 million bail bond release.
The government expressed concerns about Ex-Binance CEO Zhao’s potential non-return, citing the absence of an extradition treaty with the UAE and Zhao’s substantial assets as a multi-billionaire. However, Zhao’s lawyers argued that his willingness to comply with a substantial bail package and voluntarily face the consequences in the U.S. demonstrated he was not a flight risk.
Allowing Zhao to return to the UAE, his legal team argued, would enable him to attend to his partner and three children and make necessary preparations for the sentencing. On Friday, there was no response from the Justice Department regarding the request for comment.