Ex-Binance chief ordered to remain in US after money laundering guilty plea

Seattle, Washington - A federal judge on Monday ordered the former chief of cryptocurrency giant Binance, Changpeng Zhao, to remain at least temporarily in the United States after his guilty plea to money laundering charges.

Zhao Changpeng, founder and former CEO of Binance, has been ordered not to leave the US after pleading guilty to money laundering charges.
Zhao Changpeng, founder and former CEO of Binance, has been ordered not to leave the US after pleading guilty to money laundering charges.  © REUTERS

Zhao was not allowed to fly to the United Arab Emirates, where he lives, on Monday, according to a ruling by a federal judge in Seattle.

The decision is temporary. The Wall Street Journal said the judge has yet to decide on a defense motion over whether Zhao must remain in the United States until his sentencing, expected in late February.

Zhao, a Canadian, resigned his post at the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange platform as part of a deal announced last Tuesday with US authorities.

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He pleaded guilty to violating US anti-money laundering laws, and faces several years in prison.

"I made mistakes and I must take responsibility," he wrote on his X (ex-Twitter) account.

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Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao leaves the US District Court in Seattle, Washington, on November 21, 2023.
Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao leaves the US District Court in Seattle, Washington, on November 21, 2023.  © David Ryder / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Zhao will be replaced at the head of Binance by Richard Teng, who was previously in charge of regional markets.

As part of its guilty plea, Binance agreed to pay fines of $3.4 billion and $968 million to two agencies under the US Treasury, officials said.

In addition, the platform was sued in civil court this year by the two main financial market regulatory agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

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The CFTC accused Binance of failing to take sufficient measures to prevent money laundering. Customers were able to access the platform without pre-verification of their identity.

According to investigations by two Treasury agencies, Binance had not taken measures to prevent transactions carried out by groups such as the Islamic State group, al-Qaeda, or the armed wing of Hamas.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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