Binance’s Zhao Ordered to Stay in US Amid Flight Risk Until February Sentencing

Binance's Zhao Ordered to Stay in US Amid Flight Risk Until February Sentencing

Key Insights

  • Judge orders Binance founder CZ to stay in US until February 2024 sentencing, citing flight risk
  • Ruling blocks CZ from returning to his Dubai home where his family resides
  • CZ pled guilty to money laundering, faces 18 months in jail over Binance regulatory violations

Seattle – Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, founder of leading crypto exchange Binance, has been barred from leaving the United States and returning to his current home in the United Arab Emirates. The ruling comes from Seattle district court Judge Richard Jones, who agreed with prosecutors that Zhao poses a serious flight risk if allowed to depart ahead of his February sentencing.

Zhao recently pled guilty to money laundering charges related to Binance’s regulatory violations while operating an unlicensed crypto exchange from 2017-2021. He faces up to 18 months in prison under the plea deal’s terms.

In the December 7th ruling, Judge Jones highlighted Zhao has “enormous wealth and property abroad, and no ties to the United States”, making him an exceptional risk not to return for sentencing if permitted to go back to Dubai beforehand. While currently free on a $175 million bond in the US, prosecutors argued the funds are largely inaccessible overseas assets.

Jones concurred, stating Zhao has not convincingly demonstrated he would come back voluntarily. With his family based in the UAE where he seems to hold privileged status, the judge granted the prosecution’s motion for Zhao to stay on US soil up until his February 23rd, 2024 sentencing date.

While unable to leave the country, Zhao can still travel freely within the US per his bond terms. He also remains in contact with family members able to visit. As such, Jones believes the confinement is reasonable given the alternative of irreversible flight from justice.

The decision caps a dramatic downfall for the once high-flying Zhao after Binance and subsidiaries were slapped with a record $4.3 billion settlement last month. As part of the deal, Zhao has stepped down as CEO of the exchange he founded in 2017. Regulators globally continue eyeing Binance and former executives with intense scrutiny.

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