Judge Agrees with Binance’s $4.3 Billion Guilty Plea as US Seeks to Change Founder Zhao’s Bond. From Reuters



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Figures with computers and smartphones are seen in front of the Binance logo in this image from February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Archive photo

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Friday accepted Binance’s guilty plea and a fine of more than $4.3 billion for violating federal anti-money laundering laws and sanctions through lapses in the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange’s internal controls.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones in Seattle agreed to the plea deal, which includes a $1.81 billion fine and $2.51 billion forfeiture, about an hour after the government made changes to the bond Binance founder Changpeng Zhao suggested, drawing an objection from Zhao’s lawyers.

With the plea deal announced in November, Binance sparked a years-long investigation that found the exchange had failed to report more than 100,000 suspicious transactions involving certain terrorist groups, including Hamas, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Prosecutors said Binance’s platform also supported the sale of child sexual abuse materials and was among the largest recipients of ransomware proceeds.

In a statement Friday, Binance said it had accepted responsibility, enhanced its anti-money laundering and know-your-customer protocols and made “significant progress” on changes required under its plea agreement.

Zhao was free in the United States on $175 million bail after also pleading guilty to money laundering violations in November.

His plea included a $50 million fine and demanded that he step down as Binance CEO.

In a court filing, prosecutors said the proposed bond changes were intended to reflect Jones’ order that Zhao remain in the continental United States and under the supervision of a court officer until his April 30 sentencing.

The conditions include that Zhao announce all travel plans three days in advance, surrender his passports and maintain his current residence unless he receives approval for a change.

Investigation agency officials recommend that Zhao also be subjected to site surveillance.

Prosecutors said they discussed the changes with Zhao’s lawyers several times, but they “objected to this request as written.”

Lawyers for Zhao did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The cases are USA v. Binance Holdings Ltd, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 23-cr-00178, and USA v. Zhao, in the same court, No. 23-cr-00179.



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