A Seattle District Court judge has accepted the guilty plea of Binance founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao on charges of Bank Secrecy Act violations. Judge Richard Jones, in his Dec. 6 filing, acknowledged Zhao’s plea, initially submitted on Nov.
21, along with Binance’s substantial $4.3 billion settlement with United States agencies. This legal proceeding marks a pivotal moment for one of the most prominent figures in the crypto industry. As part of the settlement, Zhao agreed to step down as the CEO of Binance and pay $150 million to regulators.
Judge Jones stated, “The defendant is adjudged guilty of such offense,” thereby formalizing Zhao's acceptance of culpability in the matter.
Uncertainty Over Zhao’s Travel Before Sentencing
While Zhao’s guilty plea has been accepted, his ability to leave the United States before his sentencing date in February 2024 remains uncertain.
Currently released on a $175 million bond, Zhao had the potential to return to the United Arab Emirates, where he resides. However, federal prosecutors have raised objections to Zhao leaving the U.S., citing concerns over the likelihood of securing his return for the sentencing, especially given the UAE’s lack of an extradition treaty with the U.S.
Prosecutors pointed out the personal factors that might influence Zhao's decision not to return, noting, “He has three young children and a partner in the UAE; once in the UAE and faced with the prospect of traveling back to the United States to face up to 18 months in prison, he may elect to instead simply stay in the UAE with his family”.
In response, Zhao has contested the travel restriction, asserting that he poses no flight risk. He emphasized his willingness to take responsibility for his actions by traveling from the UAE to the United States. On Nov. 27, Judge Jones ordered that Zhao not be permitted to travel to the UAE until the court rules on a motion for review from the U.S.
government. This case not only highlights legal challenges in the crypto industry but also underscores the complex international aspects of legal proceedings involving high-profile individuals in the rapidly evolving world of digital finance.