What to expect at Changpeng Zhao’s sentencing on April 30

Approximately 160 days after admitting guilt to a single felony charge in a deal with the U.S. government, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, ex-CEO of Binance, is expected to stand before a federal judge.

On April 30, Judge Richard Jones will oversee a significant courtroom confrontation in the Western District of Washington’s United States District Court between prosecutors and lawyers for CZ (Changpeng Zhao). This highly anticipated legal event follows closely on the heels of the high-profile conviction and sentencing of Sam Bankman-Fried, former CEO of FTX. Initially slated to occur before month’s end, CZ’s sentencing hearing has been postponed once but is currently predicted to take place by the end of April.

In November 2023, Zhao admitted to one charge of not keeping an adequate Anti-Money Laundering (AML) system at Binance, breaking the Bank Secrecy Act. He stepped down as CEO as part of a plea bargain. Binance and Zhao consented to pay $4.3 billion to settle civil regulatory charges in the US – without an SEC lawsuit involved.

According to American sentencing rules, Judge Jones has the power to imprison CZ for a maximum of 10 years based on the U.S. guidelines for his offense. However, there is a suggested sentence of between 12 and 18 months for this particular charge. Bankman-Fried was given a 25-year sentence on March 28th, but aside from both individuals being well-known figures in the crypto industry, their cases share few similarities. Some experts speculate that due to his confession and assistance to law enforcement, Zhao might avoid serving any prison time.

In simpler terms, Moe Vela expressed to CryptoMoon that although the specific cases may differ in terms of charges, the agencies involved – the Justice Department, SEC, and federal government – have made it clear they will not accept wrongdoing by sending a strong message.

Vela commented that U.S. officials might be attempting to make an example out of illicit actors in the crypto sector, whether or not the judge hands down a severe punishment for CZ. Yet, he believed that CZ, the ex-CEO of Binance, could receive some clemency from the judge due to his cooperation and confession.

Mark Bini, a previous Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, shared with CryptoMoon that the case against CZ seemed more akin to a regulatory infraction compared to Bankman-Fried’s criminal charges. Yet, he warned that the geopolitical events involving Hamas’ attacks on Israel might impact the judge presiding over CZ’s sentencing.

Following the Hamas attack, there have been numerous claims suggesting that cryptocurrencies are being employed to finance terrorist groups. These accusations could potentially be linked to the previous Binance CEO’s charge for neglecting to establish a sufficient anti-money laundering (AML) program and the ongoing civil lawsuit against the exchange.

“Bini mentioned the uncertainty and potential alignment between public opinion and government stance on the Binance case, which involves allegations of money laundering linked to Hamas. This issue could be presented as demonstrating the significance of a perceived regulatory infraction, with prosecutors emphasizing the real-world implications in their arguments.”

Bini added:

“The facts of the case may be so compelling to the judge in some bad way for CZ that the judge feels that a more significant sentence is called for.”

After admitting guilt, Zhao has generally been allowed to move around specific parts of the US under a $175 million bond. However, his lawyers have repeatedly asked the judge for permission to take him to the UAE to see family before the trial, but these requests have all been declined.

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2024-04-16 01:19