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Binance Founder Changpeng Zhao Faces 3-Year Prison Sentence for Money Laundering

Shalini Nagarajan
Last updated: | 1 min read
Binance's Zhao Faces 3 Years in Prison for Money Laundering

US prosecutors are seeking a 3-year prison term for Binance founder Changpeng Zhao, per a Tuesday court filing.

Zhao is scheduled for sentencing on April 30 in Seattle, having pleaded guilty in November to breaching US anti-money laundering laws. He stepped down from his role as CEO at the crypto exchange, yet retains majority ownership. As part of the agreement, he agreed to a $50m fine, while the company offered to pay $4.3b in fines and compensation.

“Given the magnitude of Zhao’s willful violation of US law and its consequences, an above-Guidelines sentence of 36 months is warranted,” US prosecutors said.

Binance didn’t return Cryptonews’ request for comment by press time.

Prosecutors Push for Harsher Punishment for Crypto Mogul’s Crimes


Zhao was initially set to face up to 18 months in prison, a condition he accepted without appeal. In November, he was released on a $175m bail while awaiting sentencing for banking law breaches. Still, he was required to adhere to travel restrictions within the US.

Now, prosecutors want a more severe penalty for him than what the federal sentencing guidelines recommend.

“Zhao reaped vast rewards for his violation of US law,” the filing read. “And the price of that violation must be significant to effectively punish Zhao for his criminal acts and to deter others who are tempted to build fortunes and business empires by breaking US law.”

Prosecutors claim that Zhao neglected to establish a robust anti-money laundering (AML) program at Binance. This allegedly enabled illicit actors to exploit the exchange. Further, the actors used Binance for activities like operating mixing services to conceal crypto origins.

Moreover, Binance is said to have facilitated Iranian customers’ transactions with US customers. This move undermined US sanctions against Iran and jeopardized exchange liquidity.

Operational Shortcomings and Reporting Failures


In February, a settlement addressed significant operational deficiencies found within Binance. Notably, this included the platform’s failure to report more than 100,000 suspicious transactions linked to designated terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, al Qaeda, and ISIS.

Additionally, Binance faced allegations of facilitating transactions related to child sexual abuse materials and proceeds from ransomware activities.

Despite facing legal obstacles, Zhao’s fortune has experienced significant growth over the past year, surging by nearly $10b, per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Currently, his wealth exceeds $42b, making him the 29th wealthiest individual worldwide, according to the index.