Binance founder Changpeng Zhao pleads guilty to money laundering, steps down

Binance founder Changpeng Zhao pleads guilty to money laundering, steps down

The cryptocurrency exchange will pay over $4 billion in fines and penalties in the US

Changpeng Zhao, billionaire and the now-former CEO of the Binance cryptocurrency exchange, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to federal charges in the latest trial to restrain the often unchecked cryptocurrency industry. Binance has agreed to pay more than $4 billion in fines and other penalties in the settlement in which Zhao has agreed to end his role as CEO of the exchange he founded and will pay penalties of $200 million.

The world’s largest crypto exchange, Binance confessed to employing anti-money laundering, unlicensed money transmissions and sanctions infractions. After a lengthy investigation, US authorities allege Binance permitted criminals to freely conduct transactions on the platform, facilitating everything from narcotics and child sex abuse to terrorist financing for Al Qaeda, ISIS and the Hamas Al-Qassam Brigades.

Zhao, who has accumulated a net worth of over $23 billion, pled guilty to failing to sustain an adequate anti-money laundering strategy. He faces up to 10 years in prison but will likely receive a much lower sentence. Federal guidelines say the high end would be around 18 months, which is eventually determined by a judge.

According to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the plea deal requires Zhao to pay the prosecutors’ recommendation of $50 million plus $150 million in civil penalties. Binance must also discharge $1.35 billion in ill-gotten earnings and pay a civil monetary penalty of $1.35 billion to the CFTC.

Zhao confirmed in an X post (formerly Twitter) that he has resigned as CEO. “Admittedly, it was not easy to let go emotionally. But I know it is the right thing to do,” said Zhao. “I made mistakes, and I must take responsibilities. This is best for our community, for Binance, and for myself.”

Richard Teng, previously Binance’s global head of regional markets, will replace Zhao as CEO.

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