Four months in prison for CZ, another US state kicks out Binance.US: Law Decoded

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A United States judge has sentenced former Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao to four months in prison for violating U.S. money laundering laws.

Prosecutors had recommended that the former Binance CEO serve three years for failing to maintain an effective Anti-Money Laundering program while at the crypto exchange, to which he pleaded guilty. 

Judge Richard Jones said there was no evidence Zhao “was ever informed” of specific illegal activities at Binance, rebutting prosecutors’ request to increase the sentence from 18 months to three years.

A four-month sentence and billions of dollars in fines may seem like a light punishment to U.S. authorities, who have been investigating the former executive and its crypto empire for the past six years.

“General deterrence appears to be the main rationale behind the term of imprisonment,” Aaron Lane, a senior law lecturer at Melbourne’s RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub, told Cointelegraph.

Lane said the U.S. “was justified” in bringing the charges against Zhao. While the charges were serious, they were “of a regulatory nature” and weren’t directly comparable to FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s fraud conviction, which landed him 25 years in prison, Lane added.

However, many in and out of the crypto space have questioned why the two industry leaders have received such different treatment in the U.S. legal system.

Meanwhile, Oregon has become the sixth state to revoke, suspend or decline to renew Binance.US’ license to operate there, following a spate of refusals in 2024. 

Nigerian court postpones trial of Binance execs

Lawyers representing Binance said they had not received the documents necessary to move forward with a money laundering case involving the firm, its head of financial crime compliance, Tigran Gambaryan and regional manager Nadeem Anjarwalla. 

The trial was expected to begin on May 2, but a judge reportedly adjourned proceedings until May 17 to allow the legal team to review the documents.

The trial is separate from tax evasion charges brought against Binance, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. All parties have pleaded not guilty in the money laundering case.

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BTC-e founder pleads guilty to laundering $9 billion

Alexander Vinnik, the co-founder of the crypto exchange BTC-e, has pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy. This follows a broader investigation revealing extensive illegal activities on the exchange from 2011 to 2017. 

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) stated that during Vinnik’s leadership, BTC-e processed more than $9 billion in transactions and had a user base exceeding one million globally, with many users in the United States.

The DOJ highlighted that the platform was utilized to launder funds acquired from various criminal activities, including computer hacking, ransomware attacks and drug trafficking.

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U.S. Justice Dept charges Roger Ver with tax fraud

The DOJ announced charges against early Bitcoin investor Roger Ver, known by many as “Bitcoin Jesus.” Spanish authorities arrested Ver based on criminal charges in the U.S., including mail fraud, tax evasion, and filing false tax returns. The U.S. government alleged Ver defrauded the Internal Revenue Service out of roughly $48 million by failing to report capital gains on his sale of Bitcoin and other assets.

According to the indictment, Ver allegedly took control of roughly 70,000 Bitcoin (BTC) in June 2017 — before the famous bull run — and sold many for $240 million. U.S. officials said they planned to extradite Ver from Spain to the United States to stand trial.

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