Changpeng Zhao, the founder of the crypto exchange Binance, encountered a setback last month when a federal judge denied his request to travel to the United Arab Emirates.
CZ proposed using his substantial $4.5 billion stake in Binance as collateral, based on the company’s valuation from its last fundraising round two years ago. However, the Judge still rejected the request.
Zhao Requests Travel Permission
In November, Zhao pleaded guilty in a Seattle federal court for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program at the world’s largest crypto exchange. Binance, in response, agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties related to the case.
Following his guilty plea, Zhao stepped down as CEO, and his sentencing is scheduled for February 23. Despite the guilty plea, Zhao has remained free in the U.S. on a $175 million release bond. His lawyers submitted a letter requesting permission from Judge Jones to allow him to travel to Abu Dhabi from January 4 for one to four weeks.
The purpose of the travel was to be present for the hospitalization, surgery, and subsequent recovery of an individual whose identity is redacted in the filed letter.
Notably, the details of the medical procedure were also concealed, and it was highlighted that federal prosecutors had not given their consent to Zhao’s travel request.
Concerns About Flight Risk
Judge Jones’ recent denial followed a previous rejection of another request for Zhao to travel to the UAE in December. The Judge justified the decision, citing Zhao’s “enormous wealth” as a substantial flight risk. In an order issued on December 7, Judge Jones stated that his family resides in the UAE, and it appears he has favored status there.
The Judge expressed concerns that Zhao had not demonstrated, by clear and convincing evidence, that he would not be likely to flee if allowed to return to the UAE. Despite the denial, Zhao remains bond-free, with the restriction that he cannot travel outside the United States.
This contrasts with the case of former Celsius CEO Alex Mashinsky, who was arrested in July and is free on a $40 million bond. Additionally, former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, initially allowed to stay in his parents’ California home after extradition to the U.S. in 2022, was later ordered remanded due to allegations of witness intimidation.
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