Changpeng Zhao—founder of the cryptocurrency trading platform Binance—cannot return to his home in the United Arab Emirates for now, a federal judge in Seattle ruled Monday, according to Bloomberg and Reuters, as the founder of the world’s largest crypto exchange awaits sentencing on anti-money laundering and sanctions violations.
U.S. District Judge Richard Jones ruled Monday that, for now, Zhao cannot leave the United States after prosecutors argued there is a “substantial risk” that Zhao could flee and not return to the U.S., Bloomberg reported.
Prosecutors also noted there is a risk in allowing Zhao to return to the UAE given that the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with the country.
Lawyers for Zhao said their client was not a flight risk and noted that he came to the U.S. voluntarily to take responsibility for what happened, according to Reuters.
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The judge still needs to rule on whether Zhao can return to the United Arab Emirates ahead of his February sentencing.
Zhao is a citizen of both the UAE and Canada.
Last week, Zhao pleaded guilty to charges as part of a $4 billion settlement with federal regulators, and stepped down as chief executive of Binance. The settlement was made with the Justice Department, Treasury Department and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which claimed Binance failed to prevent “suspicious transactions with terrorists.” The government said that through a multiyear investigation, they found the cryptocurrency giant allowed bad actors on their platform—including some linked to transactions involved with narcotics and child sex abuse. Binance did not have “protocols to flag or report transactions” involving money laundering risks, the Justice Department alleged. Employees were aware of these practices, the DOJ said, noting one compliance staff who wrote, “we need a banner ‘is washing drug money too hard these days – come to binance we got cake for you.’” Zhao admitted he had made mistakes in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, saying he must “take responsibility” and do what’s best for “our community, for Binance, and for myself.” The legal settlement is the latest in a monthslong crackdown on alleged illegal activity by cryptocurrency firms. Binance as well as rivals Coinbase and Kraken are facing lawsuits from the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging they skirted