Binance founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao is compelled to remain in the United States until his sentencing in February, following a federal judge’s order citing a potential flight risk if he returns to the United Arab Emirates.
Seattle District Court Judge Richard Jones, on 7 December, directed Zhao to stay in the U.S. until his 23 February 2024, sentencing.
Having pleaded guilty to money laundering on 21 November, Zhao faces a maximum of 18 months in prison and has committed to not appealing a sentence within that range.
CZ Potential Flight Risk
Judge Jones highlighted concerns about Zhao’s substantial wealth abroad and lack of ties to the United States.
He agreed with federal prosecutors who argued they might struggle to ensure his return if he chose not to come back.
Emphasising Zhao’s family residency in the UAE and his apparent favored status there, the judge concluded that Zhao failed to prove he is unlikely to flee if he returns to the UAE.
“There is no combination of conditions sufficient to protect against the risk of flight and ensure Zhao’s return from the UAE for sentencing, and he cannot establish by clear and convincing evidence that he is not likely to flee if he is allowed to return to the UAE given his significant assets, his strong ties to the UAE, and the government’s inability to extradite him from the UAE. Thus, Zhao should be required to remain the United States between his plea and sentencing.”
Consequently, the court granted the government’s motion, mandating Zhao to remain in the continental United States between his plea and sentencing.
CZ Guilty Plea Accepted
The guilty plea, accepted by Judge Jones on 6 December, was submitted almost two weeks earlier, though a decision on Zhao’s return to Dubai, where he resides, was still pending.
Zhao, currently on a $175 million bond, is believed to have assets largely beyond the government’s reach.
Judge Jones noted that the bond conditions permit Zhao to freely travel within the U.S. and allow family visits, describing them as:
“Hardly burdensome impositions on the defendant’s freedom.”
CZ Stepped Down as Binance CEO
In November, Binance and Zhao settled with U.S. regulators for $4.3 billion, admitting to operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business and violating the Bank Secrecy Act.
As part of the settlement, Zhao stepped down as the CEO of Binance.