On Wednesday, U.S. prosecutors filed a motion requesting that Changpeng Zhao, the former CEO of Binance, remain in the United States until his scheduled sentencing in February 2024. This request follows Zhao’s recent guilty plea to a charge of violating the Bank Secrecy Act.
Zhao, a Canadian national and UAE citizen, stepped down as CEO of Binance as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The settlement includes Binance exiting the U.S. market and paying $4.3 billion in penalties for anti-money laundering and sanctions violations. Following his guilty plea, Zhao was initially released on a $175 million bond.
Prosecutors highlighted Zhao’s substantial wealth outside the U.S., minimal ties to the country, and residence in the UAE – a country without an extradition treaty with the U.S. – as factors contributing to a “substantial risk of flight.” The DOJ’s concerns are underscored by the fact that most of Zhao’s assets are located outside the United States, and the non-existence of an extradition treaty with the UAE could pose challenges should he fail to return for sentencing.
During a recent hearing, Zhao’s attorneys argued that obligating him to remain in the United States until his sentencing would create significant personal and familial difficulties, for those who are unable to relocate to the U.S. for the duration leading up to the sentencing. However, prosecutors countered this argument by distinguishing between Zhao’s voluntary arrival in the U.S. to plead guilty and his potential willingness to return to face prison time.
As part of the terms of his current bond agreement, Zhao is allowed to leave the U.S., having placed $15 million in a trust account and signed a $175 million personal recognizance bond with additional guarantors. Prosecutors, however, deem these measures insufficient, stating that Zhao’s significant assets and ties to the UAE, coupled with the lack of extradition options, necessitate his stay in the U.S. until the sentencing.
The final decision on Zhao’s ability to return to the UAE before his sentencing remains pending, with a significant focus on ensuring his presence for the February 2024 court date.