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Binance Founder Seeks to Prove He’s Not a Flight Risk

Binance’s founder is fighting the Justice Department’s efforts to keep him in the U.S.

Changpeng Zhao pleaded guilty last week to failing to maintain proper anti-money laundering standards and agreed to step down as CEO of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange.

The government wants Zhao to remain in the U.S. ahead of his sentencing in February, but in a court filing Thursday (Nov. 23), his attorneys argued he is not a flight risk and should be allowed to return to his home in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Their evidence: the fact that Zhao came to the U.S. to enter the plea, attorneys wrote in their filing, noting that Judge Brian Tsuchida, who is handling Zhao’s case, has already acknowledged that Zhao’s appearance in court is compelling.

“Based on all the relevant facts, including Mr. Zhao’s voluntary self-surrender, his intent to resolve this case, and the sizable bail package he proposed, Judge Tsuchida found that Mr. Zhao presents no risk of flight, even while residing in the UAE,” the filing said.

However, if Zhao returns to the UAE, there may not be any way of getting him back if he doesn’t want to return, Justice Department lawyers said.

“The United States has no extradition treaty with the UAE. If Zhao decided he would not return for his sentencing, the government would not be able to secure his return,” their filing said. “The government is aware of no instance in which the UAE has extradited a citizen of the UAE to the United States, and this case likely would not be the first.”

In addition, the filing notes that Zhao is — by many accounts — a multibillionaire who could afford to live in the UAE indefinitely.

Zhao stepped down last week as part of a deal with prosecutors that also saw Binance agree to plead to a criminal charge and pay fines totaling $4.3 billion. He is being succeeded by Richard Teng, the company’s former head of global markets.

“I made mistakes, and I must take responsibility. This is best for our community, for Binance, and for myself,” the founder and former CEO wrote on Twitter/X.

“Binance is no longer a baby. It is time for me to let it walk and run. I know Binance will continue to grow and excel with the deep bench it has.”