Binance Founder Sentenced To Jail By U.S. Court For Money Laundering

Founder and former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao has been sentenced to four months in prison.

Zhao pleaded guilty in November 2023 to a money laundering charge.

 

Zhao, who went by the nickname CZ, has also satisfied the requirement of him to pay $50 million in fines, U.S. District Judge Richard Jones said in court Tuesday.

 

The judge also won’t impose five months of probation as was recommended by the probation officer, Mail Online reports.

 

The 47-year-old admitted to violating the Bank Secrecy Act by willfully failing to set up an effective anti-money laundering system at Binance, the cryptocurrency exchange he founded and ran as CEO from July 2017 to November 2023.

Binance also pleaded guilty to similar charges from the US Department of Justice in November 2023 and was forced to pay $4.3 billion in fines and restitution for failing to register as a money transmitting business, Forbes reported.

U.S. prosecutors had urged the court to sentence Zhao to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to violating laws against money laundering.

 

They argued that sentencing Zhao to twice the maximum 18 months recommended under federal guidelines would reflect the magnitude of his willful violations, and send a message that would deter others.

In March, SaharaReporters reported that a U.S. district court had ordered that Zhao must surrender his Canadian passport and notify the court before travelling within the country.

 

This came after U.S. District Judge, Honorable Richard A. Jones restricted his bond conditions.

 

The court ordered the businessman to surrender all valid and expired passports, and the documents were to be transferred to someone to be hired by his lawyers who would accompany the Binance founder on all trips where a passport might be needed.

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He must also notify the relevant authorities of his movements.

In the case between the U.S. and Zhao as the defendant, the court ruling of March 11, 2024, obtained by SaharaReporters, is as follows: “Defendant must remain in the continental United States through the imposition of sentence.

 

“Defendant must notify Pretrial Services before any travel within the continental United States.

 

“Defendant must surrender his current Canadian passport to a third-party custodian employed and supervised by his counsel of record.

 

“The third-party custodian must retain control over that Canadian passport and must accompany Defendant on any travel that requires identification documents.

 

“Defendant must surrender all other current and expired passports and travel documents to his counsel of record, who may return those documents to defendant only with authorization from Pretrial Services or the Court.

 

 

 

“Defendant may not apply for or obtain a new passport or travel document from any country without the Court’s permission.”

 

 

In November 2023, Zhao pleaded guilty to criminal charges and violating the Bank Secrecy Act. He subsequently agreed to pay a fine and stepped down as the company’s CEO.

 

 

Zhao was released on bail of $175 million.

 

 

This was part of a $4.3 billion settlement with the Department of Justice, according to court documents.

 

The plea arrangement with the government followed years of investigation into the dealings of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange.

In December, Judge Jones barred Zhao from leaving the U.S. pending a verdict in his case.

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In February, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Olayemi Cardoso, said $26 billion passed through Binance Nigeria from unknown sources and users in one year.

 

The allegation came amid the free fall of the naira and clampdown on Bureaux de Change by President Bola Tinubu’s administration in an attempt to steady the rapid decline of Nigeria’s currency, naira.

 

Cardoso said the government was “concerned that certain practices go on that indicate illicit flows going through a number of these entities, and suspicious flows at best”.

 

The Nigerian government later arrested two Binance executives for alleged money laundering – Tigran Gambaryan, a U.S. citizen and Binance’s head of financial crime compliance, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan who is African regional manager for the cryptocurrency trading firm.

 

Anjarwalla later escaped from detention and fled to Kenya. Meanwhile, their trial has commenced in a Federal High Court in Abuja.

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