Former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao must stay in US for time being, judge says

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Nov 27 (Reuters) – Former Binance chief Changpeng Zhao must stay in the United States for the time being, a federal judge said on Monday, after the founder of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange pleaded guilty to violating U.S. anti-money laundering laws. Zhao will be required to stay in the United States until the Seattle court considers whether he should remain through his sentencing hearing in February, or if he should be allowed to return to the United Arab Emirates, where he is a citizen. Zhao, who is also a citizen of Canada, stepped down as CEO of Binance last week after pleading guilty to willfully causing the exchange to fail to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. U.S. District Judge Richard Jones in Seattle said he would review whether Zhao should have to stay in the United States after the U.S. government appealed a decision by another judge allowing Zhao to return to the UAE before his Feb. 23 sentencing hearing. Zhao agreed to a $175 million bond as part of the bail agreement. Binance Holdings agreed to pay over $4.3 billion and pleaded guilty to breaking U.S. anti-money laundering and sanctions laws. Binance said last week it had worked hard to make the company “safer and even more secure.” Lawyers for Zhao did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. Last week, Zhao conceded: “I made mistakes, and I must take responsibility.” Zhao faces a maximum prison sentence of 18 months under federal guidelines and has agreed not to appeal any sentence up to that length. Prosecutors will take a position on how much jail time to seek closer to Zhao’s sentencing, a Justice Department spokesperson said last week. The government had said it may be unable to secure Zhao’s return to the United States given it has no extradition treaty with the UAE. Lawyers for Zhao disputed that he was a potential flight risk, noting that he paid a “substantial” bail package and voluntarily came to the United States to accept responsibility for his actions. Reporting by Chris Prentice in New York and Hannah Lang in Washington; editing by Michelle Price and Bill Berkrot Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. Acquire Licensing Rights, opens new tab Chris Prentice Thomson Reuters Chris Prentice reports on financial crimes, with a focus on securities enforcement matters. She previously covered commodities markets and trade policy. She has received awards for her work from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. Hannah Lang Thomson Reuters Hannah Lang covers financial technology and cryptocurrency, including the businesses that drive the industry and policy developments that govern the sector. Hannah previously worked at American Banker where she covered bank regulation and the Federal Reserve. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park and lives in Washington, DC.

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