CareCredit - Women's Health April 2024

Binance Prosecutors Seek Tougher Travel Restrictions for Crypto Firm’s Founder

Prosecutors want stricter bail conditions for Binance’s founder as he awaits sentencing on money-laundering charges.

Changpeng Zhao pleaded guilty in November of last year to failing to adhere to proper anti-money laundering practices at his cryptocurrency exchanges, and also agreed to step down as head of the company.

Now, federal prosecutors want a judge to require Zhao to give the U.S. Attorney’s office and pretrial service at least three days’ notice before any travel within the country, CNBC reported Friday (Feb. 23), citing court documents.

The new bail conditions would also require Zhao to give up his Canadian passport and would prevent him from applying for a new one without court permission. In addition, the billionaire would be forbidden from changing his residence without approval.

The argument came as a judge approved Binance’s $4.3 billion deal with the U.S. government – forged the same time as Zhao’s plea – that resolved ongoing Justice Department investigations connected to the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), failure to register as a money transmitting business and other financial and regulatory violations.

A December court ruling had determined Zhao was a flight risk and ordered him to remain in the U.S. ahead of his sentencing. The sentencing had originally been scheduled for Friday, but will now happen in April.

Zhao’s lawyers have contended that their client is not a flight risk, pointing to the fact that he traveled to the U.S. to enter his guilty plea, intends to resolve the case, and proposed a sizable bail agreement. 

However, federal prosecutors argued that Zhao was a flight risk because of his substantial wealth outside the country and his close ties with the United Arab Emirates, which has no extradition treaty with the U.S.

Zhao is facing up to 18 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines but could be subject to a stiffer penalty, assuming the Justice Department argues for one.

Despite Binance’s recent legal and regulatory issues, the company last year saw a 30% increase in its user base, welcoming 40 million new customers.

“Importantly, we saw a particularly strong uptick in inflows coming from institutional investors,” Binance CEO Richard Teng wrote in the company’s year-end report.