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- Former Binance CEO has been labeled a flight risk by US prosecutors who want to keep him in the US ahead of his February sentencing
- Zhao’s guilty plea to violations of the Bank Secrecy Act resulted in an immediate $50 million fine and the potential for an 18-month imprisonment
- Zhao is due to leave the US on November 27 and must return by February 10 if he is allowed to leave
Former Binance CEO has been deemed a flight risk by US prosecutors who want to keep him in the country ahead of his February sentencing on money laundering charges. Zhao pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a US criminal charge of failure to protect against money laundering, which resulted in an immediate $50 million fine and the possibility of an 18-month imprisonment, with his sentencing in a Seattle set for February 23. Zhao is due to leave the US to return to his UAE home on the 27th, with a decision needed by 5 p.m. that day.
Sentencing Set for February 23
Binance and Zhao made headlines on Tuesday when the latter admitted to charges related to violating the Bank Secrecy Act while the exchange copped to various criminal and civil charges, resulting in a historic $4.3 billion penalty.
Zhao’s sentencing, which could see him imprisoned for up to 18 months, is set for February 23 and Zhao was initially told he could return home as long as he comes back to the US by February 10. However, in a court filing on Wednesday, federal prosecutors argued that Zhao, as a UAE citizen with minimal US ties, may not return if allowed to leave before sentencing.
No Extradition Treaty Concerns Prosecutors
While Zhao’s current bond arrangement permits him to leave the US, prosecutors contend it is inadequate. Zhao posted $15 million in a trust account, a $175 million personal recognizance bond, and additional funds from guarantors but prosecutors argue that, given Zhao’s wealth and international assets, they may not secure the bond if he doesn’t return. Furthermore, there is no extradition treaty between the UAE and the US, increasing the risk.
During a Tuesday hearing, Zhao’s attorneys claimed that keeping him in the US until sentencing would impose hardships on him and his family, but prosecutors emphasized the distinction between voluntarily coming to the US to plead guilty and facing potential prison time.
District Judge Richard Jones had until 5 p.m. on November 27, when Zhao is set to leave, to rule on the matter, otherwise Zhao will be free to leave.