The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a motion to prevent Changpeng Zhao, the former CEO of Binance, from leaving the country, arguing that he is a flight risk. Zhao, also known as CZ, pleaded guilty to violating anti-money laundering laws and agreed to step down as the head of the world’s largest crypto exchange last week.
According to the motion, filed on Monday in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington, the DOJ believes that Zhao has the means and the motive to flee the US and evade justice. The motion cites Zhao’s extensive international travel history, his lack of ties to the US, his access to significant financial resources, and his potential exposure to a lengthy prison sentence.
The motion also claims that Zhao has not been cooperative with the DOJ’s investigation and has attempted to obstruct justice by deleting evidence, instructing employees to lie, and using encrypted communication channels. The motion states that Zhao has shown a “pattern of disregard for US law and regulation” and that he poses a danger to the community.
The DOJ requests that the court order Zhao to surrender his passport and any other travel documents, to wear a GPS ankle monitor, to remain in the US, and to report to a pretrial services officer. The DOJ also asks that Zhao be prohibited from contacting any current or former Binance employees, customers, or affiliates, and from accessing any Binance-related accounts or devices.
Zhao’s lawyer, John Keker, has opposed the motion, arguing that Zhao is not a flight risk and that he has complied with the terms of his release. Keker said that Zhao has voluntarily appeared in court, cooperated with the DOJ, and agreed to pay $200 million in fines as part of his plea deal. Keker also said that Zhao has strong ties to the US, including his family, friends, and business associates.
Keker also challenged the DOJ’s allegations that Zhao has obstructed justice, saying that they are based on “speculation and innuendo”. Keker said that Zhao has not deleted any evidence, instructed anyone to lie, or used encrypted communication channels to evade detection. Keker said that Zhao has acted in good faith and that he intends to face the consequences of his actions.
The court has not yet ruled on the motion. Zhao is scheduled to be sentenced on January 15, 2024. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.