Changpeng Zhao Ordered to Stay in US Until Sentencing

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  • Former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao must stay in the US until his February 2024 sentencing for money laundering failure
  • Zhao admitted to failing to protect against money laundering last month
  • A federal judge overturned the ruling of a magistrate judge, who had initially allowed Zhao to return to the UAE until next year

Former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao has been ordered to stay in the US ahead of his February 2024 sentencing for failure to protect against money laundering. US District Judge Richard Jones rejected the billionaire’s request to return to the UAE on Thursday following his guilty plea in November. Zhao and Binance admitted to failing to implement anti-money laundering policies and violating the Bank Secrecy Act as part of a broad agreement with prosecutors that allowed the exchange to continue operating and resulted in a $4.3 billion settlement.

$175 Million Bond Doesn’t Matter

Zhao faces up to 18 months in prison for his crimes, with a sentencing date set for February 23. Initially allowed to return home before this date, prosecutors argued he might not return due to his UAE citizenship and limited US ties. Despite a $15 million trust account, a $175 million bond, and additional funds, prosecutors contended that Zhao’s significant wealth and international assets posed a risk, especially with no US-UAE extradition treaty.

Zhao’s attorneys claimed the hardship this would place on Zhao and his family, and a US magistrate judge initially ruled that Zhao could return home as part of the plea deal. However, the state appealed and yesterday a federal judge agreed with the state’s petition, meaning that Zhao must now remain in the US over the festive period to await sentencing the next 11 weeks.

Binance Has Withdrawn Abu Dhabi License Application

The news about Zhao’s detention came on the same day that news dropped of Binance withdrawing its application for an Abu Dhabi operating license. The request, filed a year ago, would have allowed the firm to manage a collective investment fund, according to the regulator’s website, but the company has decided that the application was “not necessary” according to a Binance spokesperson, with the company now “assessing our global licensing needs.”