(CTN News) – The legal representatives of former Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao are appealing to a U.S. judge to reject the Justice Department’s plea to prevent him from returning to his home in the United Arab Emirates until his sentencing for violating anti-money laundering regulations.
In a submission made on Thursday, Zhao’s legal team requested U.S. District Judge Richard Jones in Seattle to uphold the bail conditions set by a magistrate judge on Tuesday, which allowed Zhao to leave the U.S. while awaiting sentencing.
Zhao, a citizen of the UAE and Canada, resigned as CEO of Binance on Tuesday after admitting to intentionally causing the global cryptocurrency exchange to fail in maintaining an effective anti-money laundering program.
The U.S. government has accused Binance of violating anti-money laundering and sanctions laws by failing to report more than 100,000 suspicious transactions involving organizations designated as terrorist groups by the U.S., The Islamic State of Iraq, and Syria, Hamas, and al Qaeda among the extremist groups that exist.
In a plea agreement, Binance has agreed to pay over $4.3 billion,
While its CEO, Zhao, has agreed to a $150 million penalty.
Prosecutors have warned that Zhao could face up to 18 months in prison. The Justice Department is now seeking to prevent Zhao from leaving the U.S. before his sentencing on Feb. 23, despite his release on a $175 million bail bond, by asking Judge Jones to overturn a decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida.
The absence of an extradition treaty with the UAE and Zhao’s immense wealth as a multi-billionaire have raised concerns for the government regarding his return.
Despite this Binance, Zhao’s legal team has argued that he is not a flight risk and has even accepted a substantial bail package, voluntarily coming to the U.S. to take responsibility for his actions.
They have also stated that allowing Zhao to return to the UAE would enable him to care for his family and prepare for his sentencing.
The Justice Department, in a brief submitted on Friday, described its decision to propose Zhao’s release prior to sentencing as “unusual.” They explained that this recommendation was made due to the belief that the risk of him fleeing could be controlled by imposing travel restrictions.
It is worth noting that such an outcome is Binance uncommon for a wealthy defendant facing potential imprisonment in a country without extradition agreements.