Former Binance CEO Fights U.S. Request to Bar UAE Return
Lawyers representing former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao are pushing back against the U.S. Justice Department’s attempt to prevent him from returning to his home in the United Arab Emirates until his sentencing for violating anti-money laundering laws, stating that it would be unjust to do so.
Maintaining Bail Conditions
Zhao’s legal team made a filing on Thursday, asking U.S. District Judge Richard Jones in Seattle to uphold the bail conditions that were previously set by a magistrate judge, which would allow him to leave the U.S. while awaiting sentencing. This follows Zhao’s step down as CEO of Binance on Tuesday, following his guilty plea for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program.
Alleged Violations and a Plea Deal
The U.S. authorities accused Binance of violating anti-money laundering and sanctions laws, as well as failing to report over 100,000 suspicious transactions with organizations classified as terrorist groups. As part of a plea deal, Binance agreed to pay over $4.3 billion, and Zhao himself agreed to a $150 million penalty to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Prosecutors mentioned in a Wednesday filing that Zhao faces up to 18 months in prison.
U.S. Government’s Request and Defense Arguments
The Justice Department has called for a reversal of the decision to allow Zhao to return home to the UAE after he was released on a $175 million bail bond, citing concerns about his potential non-return, given that the U.S. has no extradition treaty with the UAE. However, Zhao’s lawyers emphasized his citizenship, bail package, and voluntary acceptance of responsibility as proof that he is not a flight risk. They argued that allowing him to return to the UAE is crucial for him to take care of his family and prepare for his sentencing.
Justice Department’s Response
In response to the defense arguments, the Justice Department asserted that the decision to recommend Zhao remain free before sentencing was an exception due to belief that the risk of flight could be “managed” by restricting his travel. They highlighted the atypical nature of the decision, stating that in most cases, a defendant in Zhao’s position would be detained.
As the legal battle between Zhao’s defense team and the Justice Department escalates, the future of the former Binance CEO’s ability to return to the UAE remains uncertain, pending a decision from Judge Jones.