Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, the founder of cryptocurrency exchange Binance, has been instructed by a federal judge to stay in the United States until his sentencing, amid concerns of him posing a flight risk.
Risk of Flight: Judge’s Ruling
On December 7, Seattle district court Judge Richard Jones ordered Zhao to remain in the U.S.
until his sentencing date on February 23, 2024. This decision comes after Zhao pleaded guilty to money laundering charges on November 21. He faces a potential sentence of up to 18 months in prison and has agreed not to appeal any sentence up to that duration.
Judge Jones, in his ruling, noted Zhao's considerable wealth and properties abroad, as well as his lack of ties to the United States, as reasons for concern regarding the possibility of him fleeing the country. "The defendant has enormous wealth and property abroad, and no ties to the United States,” Jones wrote.
He further noted Zhao’s family residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and his apparent favored status there, concluding that Zhao had not convincingly demonstrated that he would not flee if allowed to return to the UAE.
Bond Conditions and Travel Restrictions
Zhao, who is currently on a $175 million bond, was deemed a flight risk partly because the bond “appears to be largely comprised of assets beyond the government’s reach”.
The conditions of Zhao’s bond permit him unrestricted travel within the United States and allow his family to visit him. Judge Jones described these conditions as “hardly burdensome impositions on the defendant’s freedom”.
This ruling came a day after Judge Jones accepted Zhao’s guilty plea but initially deferred decision on a motion by federal prosecutors to prevent Zhao from returning to Dubai, where he resides. Zhao's case has garnered significant attention in the cryptocurrency world, given his high-profile status as the founder of one of the largest crypto exchanges globally.
The outcome of this legal proceeding is being closely watched as it unfolds, with potential implications for the broader cryptocurrency industry.