Binance’s CZ could stay in prison until 2027, wife begs for mercy

Scheduled for sentencing on April 30, Zhao faces legal consequences following a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in November 2023. Although he agreed to a maximum 18-month sentence, the DOJ is now seeking a 36-month sentence.

In his letter, Zhao admitted that he should have put better compliance measures in place at Binance, stating, “There is no excuse for my failure,” and assured this would be his only “encounter with the criminal justice system.” He also shared plans to support biotech startups and youth initiatives moving forward.

Zhao’s request for leniency is supported by 161 letters, including from family, friends, and colleagues. His sister, Jessica Zhao, highlighted his commitment to doing good, even during the FTX crisis, ensuring Binance safeguarded customer funds.

Further support came from He Yi, Binance co-founder and mother of Zhao’s three children, who defended Zhao’s navigation of the complex and under-regulated cryptocurrency landscape. Zhao’s wife, Yang Weiqing, mentioned that he’s given millions to help disaster victims in Japan. Plus, Zhao’s kids and Tigran Gambaryan, who heads Financial Crime Compliance at Binance, shared some personal stories and praised “his integrity and global impact.”

Additional letters of support came from notable figures such as Binance’s Head of Financial Crime Compliance, Tigran Gambaryan, former U.S. Ambassador to China, Max S. Baucus, and academics from prominent universities, all attesting to Zhao’s integrity and impact.

DoJ argued that Zhao’s leadership at Binance involved a “Wild West” approach, ignoring U.S. anti-money-laundering regulations, which enriched him and elevated his status in the cryptocurrency world. The harsher sentence is seen as a measure to deter similar violations by others in the industry.

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Zhao, under whose leadership Binance became the world’s largest crypto exchange by volume, resigned in November 2023 after pleading guilty to U.S. money laundering and sanctions violations. As part of a settlement, Binance was ordered to pay $4.3 billion in penalties and exit the U.S. market, while Zhao was fined $50 million and banned from any involvement with Binance for three years.

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