Lawyers representing former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao are urging a U.S. judge to reject the Justice Department's request to prevent him from returning to his home in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) until he is sentenced for violating anti-money laundering regulations.
In a filing on Thursday, Zhao's legal team asked U.S. District Judge Richard Jones in Seattle not to overturn the bail conditions set by a magistrate judge on Tuesday. These conditions would permit Zhao to leave the U.S. while awaiting sentencing. Zhao, a citizen of both the UAE and Canada, resigned as CEO of Binance on Tuesday after pleading guilty to willfully causing the global cryptocurrency exchange to fail in maintaining an effective anti-money laundering program.
U.S. authorities have alleged that Binance violated anti-money laundering and sanctions laws, failing to report over 100,000 suspicious transactions involving organizations classified by the U.S. as terrorist groups, including Hamas, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). As part of a plea deal, Binance agreed to pay more than $4.3 billion, and Zhao agreed to a $150 million penalty to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Prosecutors, in a Wednesday filing, indicated that Zhao could face up to 18 months in prison.
The Justice Department has requested Judge Jones to reverse the decision made by U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida, allowing Zhao to return to the UAE before his sentencing on February 23, following his agreement to a $175 million bail bond.
The government expressed concerns that it might be challenging to secure Zhao's return if he opts not to come back for sentencing, given the absence of an extradition treaty with the UAE and Zhao's considerable assets as a multi-billionaire. In response, Zhao's lawyers argued that their client had shown he was not a flight risk by accepting a substantial bail package and voluntarily coming to the U.S. to admit his wrongdoing.
Allowing Zhao to return to the UAE, the defense contended, would enable him to attend to his partner and three children and make necessary preparations for his sentencing. As of now, the Justice Department has not responded to requests for comment on the matter.
By fLEXI tEAM