The legal defense team of Changpeng Zhao, former CEO of Binance, has mounted a robust argument against a motion seeking to restrict his movement to the United States. This motion, filed by prosecutors, aims to keep Zhao in the U.S. until his sentencing in February next year. The unfolding legal drama encapsulates a crucial debate over jurisdiction and the concept of a flight risk in the context of high-profile, international legal cases.
Defense argues against ‘flight risk’ claims
Zhao, having pleaded guilty to charges related to violating the Bank Secrecy Act, agreed to a significant fine of $50 million, while his former company, Binance, settled a connected criminal case with a record $4.3 billion fine. The case, probing alleged money laundering, fraud, and sanctions violations, marks a significant moment in the regulatory oversight of the cryptocurrency industry. However, the focal point of the recent court filing by Zhao’s defense revolves around the conditions of his bail and the assessment of his risk of fleeing.
Zhao’s legal team, in their argument against the motion, emphasized that U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida had previously ruled Zhao was not a flight risk. They also highlighted Zhao’s lack of criminal history, the non-violent nature of the offenses, and his proactive approach to pleading guilty. The defense further argued that Zhao’s status as a globally recognized figure effectively negates any possibility of evading the U.S. justice system.
Moreover, the defense put forth that Zhao’s potential to serve a part of his sentence in non-jail settings, like home detention or community confinement, reduces any incentive for him to flee. They contended that his family ties and residence in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) do not inherently increase his flight risk. The defense also noted Zhao’s compliance with substantial bail conditions, including a $175 million personal recognizance bond backed by significant cash amounts from guarantors and a real property in the U.S.
Prosecutors cite concerns over the extradition treaty and assets
Contrasting with the defense’s assertions, prosecutors raised concerns about Zhao’s substantial assets and strong connections to the UAE, a nation with which the U.S. lacks an extradition treaty. They argued that these factors, coupled with Zhao’s dual citizenship in the UAE and Canada, present a substantial flight risk, warranting his stay in the U.S. until sentencing.
The decision by Judge Tsuchida, allowing Zhao to return to the UAE unless reviewed before a set deadline, adds another layer to this complex legal narrative. Zhao is required to return to the U.S. by early February, ahead of his sentencing later that month.