Lawyers representing former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao are strongly urging a U.S. judge to
dismiss the Justice Department’s request to prevent him from returning to his residence in the
United Arab Emirates until his sentencing for violating anti-money laundering regulations.
In a filing on Thursday, Zhao’s legal team asked U.S. District Judge Richard Jones in Seattle not
to overturn the bail conditions set by a magistrate judge on Tuesday, which would permit Zhao
to leave the U.S. while awaiting sentencing.
Zhao, a citizen of the UAE and Canada, resigned as CEO of Binance on Tuesday after pleading
guilty to willfully causing the cryptocurrency exchange to fail in maintaining an effective anti-
money laundering program.
The U.S. authorities allege that Binance violated anti-money laundering and sanctions laws,
failing to report over 100,000 suspicious transactions involving organizations identified by the
U.S. as terrorist groups, including Hamas, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Binance agreed to pay more than $4.3 billion as part of a plea deal, and Zhao agreed to a $150
million penalty to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. In a Wednesday filing on
Wednesday, prosecutors indicated that Zhao could face up to 18 months in prison.
The Justice Department has requested Judge Jones to reverse the decision by U.S. Magistrate
Judge Brian Tsuchida to allow Zhao to return to the UAE before his February 23 sentencing,
citing concerns about his potential non-return given the absence of an extradition treaty with the
UAE and Zhao’s substantial assets as a multi-billionaire.
Zhao’s legal team countered, asserting that Zhao had proven he was not a flight risk by accepting
a “substantial” bail package and voluntarily coming to the U.S. to admit guilt.
They argued that allowing Zhao to return to the UAE would enable him to attend to his partner
and three children and prepare them for his sentencing.
In response, the Justice Department characterized their decision to recommend Zhao’s continued
freedom as “exceptional” and based on the belief that the flight risk could be “managed” by
restricting his travel.
They emphasized that in most cases, a billionaire defendant who has pleaded guilty and lives in a
non-extradition countries would typically be detained.