Binance Founder CZ Must Stay in the U.S. Amidst Money Laundering Charges, Rules Federal Judge

A federal judge in Seattle has ruled that Changpeng Zhao, the founder and former CEO of Binance, must remain in the United States pending his sentencing on money laundering charges. This decision follows an appeal by the Justice Department against a magistrate judge’s earlier ruling that allowed Zhao, also known as “CZ” in the crypto world, to return to the United Arab Emirates.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones stated in his ruling that overturning a magistrate judge’s pre-sentencing decision is unusual but noted that he was persuaded by the Justice Department’s argument that Zhao posed a flight risk. Despite Zhao posting a substantial $175 million bond, Judge Jones emphasized that the Binance founder’s considerable wealth raised concerns about his willingness to forfeit the bond for freedom.

Jones highlighted the government’s fear that Zhao’s vast wealth, predominantly held overseas, and access to significant cryptocurrency funds could facilitate his escape. The ruling comes in the wake of Binance agreeing to pay over $4 billion in one of the largest corporate fines in U.S. history to settle charges related to allegedly turning a blind eye to criminal transactions on its platforms. Zhao personally agreed to pay $50 million.

While Jones acknowledged that Zhao posed no danger to the community, he cited the Justice Department’s unverified claim that Zhao was offered citizenship by the UAE as additional evidence of a potential flight risk, given the lack of an extradition treaty between the UAE and the U.S. The judge emphasized Zhao’s multibillionaire status and his family’s residence in the UAE.

Despite the restrictions imposed, Jones indicated that Zhao could remain at liberty within the continental U.S. pending his sentencing hearing scheduled for February, raising questions about the future developments in this high-profile case.

As of now, Zhao has not provided immediate comments on the ruling or whether he plans to file an appeal.