Ex-Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao Receives 4 Months Jail Time For AML Violations

Changpeng Zhao (aka “CZ”) – the founder and former CEO of crypto exchange giant Binance – has been sentenced to 4 months in prison after a hearing in a Seattle courthouse on Tuesday.

  • The sentencing follows CZ’s guilty plea to running afoul of know-your-customer and anti-money laundering requirements at his exchange in November.
  • During the hearing, Judge Richard Jones acknowledged tht CZ had “accepted responsibility” for his actions, and that his actions at Binance were of a “mitigating nature.”
  • “There’s no evidence that the defendant was ever informed [of illegal activity at Binance]” the judge said, as reported by journalist Nikhilesh De.
  • Jones was immediately skeptical of the Department of Justice (DOJ), for arguing that CZ should be sentenced to three years – twice the recommended sentencing guideline for similar crimes.
  • The DOJ argued that the punishment should fit the magnitude of CZ’s crime, claiming the Bank Secrecy Act would “for intents and purposes be a dead letter,” if CZ did not receive meaningful time in prison.
  • By contrast, CZ’s defense argued for no prison time at all, citing the United States’ previous case against BitMEX co-founder Arthur Hayes, who instead received two months probation.
  • Binance has already agreed to pay a $4 billion fine, while CZ paid a $50 million fine as part of a plea deal last year. Some estimates suggest that the crypto mogul still has $43 billion to his name.
  • “I recognize the importance of having a robust KYC/[anti-money-laundering] program,” said CZ in court on Tuesday. “That is why I directed Binance to cooperate with the U.S.’s investigation.”

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