Judge Richard Jones wrote, “This court hereby accepts the defendant’s guilty plea to the charge […] and the defendant is adjudged guilty of such offense.”

Judge Richard Jones

A federal judge accepted Binance founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao’s guilty plea to money laundering but has yet to rule on whether he can leave the country before his February sentencing date.

Judge Richard Jones stated in a Dec. 6 filing to a Seattle District Court that he accepted Zhao’s guilty plea to one count of Bank Secrecy Act violations, which the Binance founder submitted over two weeks ago on Nov. 21 alongside his exchange’s $4.3 billion settlement with US agencies.

Zhao resigned as CEO of Binance and paid $150 million to regulators as part of the settlement agreement.

Judge Jones wrote, “This Court accepts the defendant’s plea of guilty after considering the Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge, to which there has been no timely objection.” “It is decided that the defendant committed such an offense.”

Judge Jones’ one-page plea acceptance concludes by ordering Zhao to appear for sentencing in February. Source: PACER

Zhao is set to be sentenced on February 23, 2024, and faces up to 18 months behind bars. He was freed on a $175 million bond, which would have enabled him to go back to his home country of the United Arab Emirates.

Since the UAE does not have an extradition treaty and Zhao could live there indefinitely thanks to his wealth, federal prosecutors have objected to allowing Zhao to leave the country, claiming that if he did not return, they “would not be able to secure his return.”

Prosecutors said, “He may choose to simply stay in the UAE with his family instead of facing the prospect of traveling back to the United States to face up to 18 months in prison.” He has three young children and a partner in the UAE.

Zhao has protested the travel ban, claiming he “poses no risk of flight” and that by taking a plane from the United Arab Emirates to the United States, he accepted responsibility for his actions.

On November 27, Judge Jones ruled that Zhao not be permitted to travel to the UAE until a court ruled on the US government’s motion for review.