Judge accepts Binance CEO CZ’s guilty plea, with sentencing in Feb

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A federal judge has accepted Binance founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao’s guilty plea to money laundering but hasn’t decided if he can leave the United States before his February sentencing date.

In a Dec. 6 filing to a Seattle District Court, Judge Richard Jones said he accepted Zhao’s guilty plea to one count of Bank Secrecy Act violations, which the Binance founder submitted over two weeks ago on Nov. 21 alongside his exchange’s $4.3 billion settlement with United States agencies.

Part of the settlement deal saw Zhao step down as CEO of Binance and pay $150 million to regulators.

“This Court, having considered the Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge, to which there has no timely objection […] accepts the plea of guilty of the defendant,” Judge Jones wrote. “The defendant is adjudged guilty of such offense.”

Judge Jones’ one-page plea acceptance ends by ordering Zhao to appear for sentencing in February. Source: PACER

Zhao is set to be sentenced on Feb. 23 next year and faces up to 18 months in prison. He’s currently released on a $175 million bond, which would have allowed him to return to the United Arab Emirates where he resides.

Federal prosecutors have however objected to allowing Zhao to leave the U.S., saying they “would not be able to secure his return” if he decided not to return, as the UAE has no extradition treaty and Zhao could live there indefinitely on his wealth.

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“He has three young children and a partner in the UAE; once in the UAE and faced with the prospect of traveling back to the United States to face up to 18 months in prison, he may elect to instead simply stay in the UAE with his family,” prosecutors said.

Zhao has opposed the travel block, saying he “poses no risk of flight,” arguing he took responsibility for his actions by flying from the UAE to the U.S.

Judge Jones ordered on Nov. 27 that Zhao not be permitted to travel to the UAE until a court ruled on a motion for review from the U.S. government.

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