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Judge Approves Binance’s $4.3B Plea Deal As Prosecutors Ask Founder CZ To Surrender All Passports

A U.S. District Judge signed off on Binance’s guilty plea, along with an eye-popping $4.3 billion in fines and penalties — arguably one of the largest in U.S. history — to settle its case with the U.S. Department of Justice.

This came roughly an hour after U.S. prosecutors requested former Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao to hand over all his passports and travel documents.

Binance’s Unprecedented $4.3 Billion Guilty Plea Accepted

During a hearing in Seattle on Friday, Judge Richard Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington approved Binance’s guilty plea, which includes a $1.8 billion criminal fine and a $2.5 billion forfeiture.

“Due in part to Binance’s failure to implement an effective AML program, illicit actors used Binance’s exchange in various ways, including operating mixing services that obfuscated the source and ownership of cryptocurrency,” U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors posited in court documents. “Transacting illicit proceeds from ransomware variants; and moving proceeds of darknet market transactions, exchange hacks, and various internet-related scams.”

The DOJ announced the settlement last November, alleging Binance had breached sanctions and anti-money-laundering rules. Per the terms of the settlement, the exchange would pay $4.3 billion, exit the U.S., and have its chief executive officer at the time, founder Changpeng Zhao, resign. Zhao pleaded guilty to separate charges and is scheduled to be sentenced on 30th April.

Although the $4.3B penalty was first suggested in November during the exchange’s negotiations with U.S. prosecutors, Judge Richard sealed the final deal on Friday.

A Binance representative said in a statement that the firm “accepts responsibility for past action,” adding that it had significantly upgraded its know-your-customer (KYC) requirements and anti-money-laundering compliance in recent years.

Prosecutors Want To Change CZ’s Bond Terms Ahead Of Sentencing

Now that Binance has settled the DOJ’s claims, what will become of ex-chief Zhao — who is currently free on a $175 million bond — remains to be seen.

In a Friday court filing, U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman asked Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida to grant a motion modifying the conditions for Zhao to remain free on bond. Prosecutors want CZ to remain within the continental U.S. until his sentencing hearing in late April and give a minimum of three days’ notice before any travel to allow the government to raise objections. They also asked the crypto billionaire to surrender his Canadian passport and “all other current and expired passports and travel documents” to his defense counsel.

Changpeng faces a prison term of up to 18 months, but prosecutors are free to argue that he should be given as many as 10 years.

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