Changpeng Zhao, the former CEO of Binance, has been denied travel requests to return to his residency in the United Arab Emirates following a Federal Judge ruling.
Zhao, also known as ‘CZ’, pleaded guilty to violating the Bank Secrecy Act and fined $50m during his former role at Binance where the crypto exchange was charged with breaking US money laundering rules which resulted in a record $4.3bn settlement fee.
After being released on a $175m bond, Zhao’s defence team have been calling on Judge Tsuchida to grant him access to leave the US to return to the UAE, as they believe CZ voluntarily travelling to the US to plead guilty poses no threat of a flight risk.
However, the US Department of Justice claimed that whilst CZ has ‘minimal ties’ to the US, this would only incentivize him to not return back to the US, as the UAE has no extradition policy in place with them.
District Judge Richard Jones, of the Western District of Washington, ultimately sided with the DOJ, stating: “The defendant has articulated justifications that in most cases would cause the government’s motion to be denied.
“However, a critical feature of the government’s motion is the extent of the defendant’s enormous wealth and absence of an extradition treaty with the UAE. In addition, the defendant’s family resides in the UAE and there is no indication he has any other ties to the United States.
“While the defendant has indicated he will be asking for a lesser sentence, the government has indicated it may be asking for as much as 18 months of incarceration. Consequently, the defendant is not facing an insignificant sentence.”
Zhao will now remain in the US before his 23 February, 2024 sentence date, where he could face up to 18 months in jail, or take a plea deal to serve less time.