Sealing docs in Binance case could suggest a criminal probe, says former SEC official

Sealing docs in Binance case could suggest a criminal probe, says former SEC official

The legal team representing the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in its civil case against Binance is requesting the court grant a motion to allow documents filed under seal.

In an Aug. 28 filing in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the SEC petitioned a federal judge for leave to file documents under seal in the commission’s case against Binance, Binance.US, and Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ). The motion itself was under seal, leading to speculation that the SEC intended to make filings with sensitive information.

According to former SEC official John Reed Stark, the request to file sealed documents could hint at an ongoing criminal probe by the U.S. Department of Justice. The government department has reportedly been investigating Binance for allegations of money laundering and potential violations of sanctions involving Russian entities.

“The secret U.S. SEC filing likely relates to an existing U.S. DOJ investigation of Binance and could, directly or indirectly, describe the heretofore unknown contents of an impending U.S. DOJ Binance-related indictment or an indictment already filed under seal — which the U.S. DOJ would prefer to keep secret,” said Stark. “Binance will likely NOT oppose the U.S. SEC sealing motion for fear of making public potentially inculpatory evidence or potentially scathing criminal allegations relating to Binance’s activities.”

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The motion followed Binance’s peer-to-peer platform banning Russian residents from using fiat currencies other than the ruble and removing certain sanctioned Russian financial institutions from available payment options. A Binance spokesperson also reportedly said the firm was considering all options in regard to Russia, “including a full exit.”

The SEC filed a lawsuit against Binance, Binance.US, and CZ in June for allegedly offering unregistered securities to U.S. users and failing to register as an exchange or a broker-dealer clearing agency. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission also filed a lawsuit against Binance and CZ, who filed motions to dismiss in July. Both cases were ongoing at the time of publication.

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