Former Binance CEO Zhao urges judge to allow him to leave US before sentencing –

Zhao Changpeng, founder and CEO of Binance, attends the Viva Technology conference on innovation and startups at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France on June 16, 2022.

Benoit Tessier | Portal

Lawyers for former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao are asking a U.S. judge to reject the Justice Department’s request to bar him from returning to his home in the United Arab Emirates until he is convicted of violating anti-money laundering rules becomes.

Zhao’s lawyers, in a filing Thursday, asked U.S. District Judge Richard Jones in Seattle not to lift bail conditions set by a judge on Tuesday that would allow him to leave the U.S. while he awaits sentencing.

Zhao, a citizen of the United Arab Emirates and Canada, resigned as Binance CEO on Tuesday after pleading guilty to intentionally ensuring that the global cryptocurrency exchange failed to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program.

U.S. authorities said Binance violated U.S. anti-money laundering and sanctions laws and failed to report more than 100,000 suspicious transactions with organizations the U.S. designated as terrorist groups, including Hamas, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The company agreed to pay more than $4.3 billion as part of a settlement. Zhao has agreed to pay a $150 million fine to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and prosecutors said in a filing Wednesday that he faces up to 18 months in prison.

The Justice Department has asked Jones by Monday to overturn a decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida to allow Zhao to return to the United Arab Emirates before his Feb. 23 sentencing after he agreed to release him on bail to release $175 million.

The government said it may not be able to secure his return if he chooses not to return to the U.S. for sentencing because there is no extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates and Zhao is a multibillionaire with significant assets.

However, Zhao’s lawyers argued that the former CEO had shown he was not a flight risk by agreeing to a “significant” bail and voluntarily traveling to the US to accept responsibility for his actions.

Zhao’s return to the UAE would allow him to care for his partner and three children and prepare them for his sentencing, defense lawyers argued.

The Justice Department responded in a brief statement Friday that its decision at Tuesday’s hearing to recommend that Zhao remain free before sentencing was “extraordinary” and was based solely on its belief that the The looming risk of escape could be “managed” by restricting his travel.

“In the vast majority of cases, a multibillionaire who has pleaded guilty, faces possible prison time, and lives in a country that does not extradite its citizens to the United States would be imprisoned,” Justice Department lawyers said.