US judge refuses to allow Binance founder Zhao to travel to UAE, despite pledge of $4.5 billion equity stake in Binance
Binance’s founder and former CEO Changpeng Zhao has had to remain in the United States, after a judge ruled against his request last month.
CNBC reported that last month a federal judge had rejected a request by Binance’s “CZ” Zhao to travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the “hospitalisation and surgery” of a person in his life.
This was despite Zhao having offered to post $4.5 billion in Binance equity as security for his return to the US, a new criminal court filing reveals.
The filing on Wednesday that Zhao’s lawyers on 22 December in a letter Judge Richard Jones, that Binance’s equity had been valued $4.5 billion, based on it’s last round of fundraising two years ago, CNBC reported.
It was back in November 2023 when Binance Holdings had reached a $4.3 billion (£3bn) settlement with the US Justice Department (DoJ) to resolve its years-long criminal investigation into the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange.
In addition to the huge fine, Zhao had pleaded guilty for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering (AML) program and resigned his CEO role at the exchange.
Binance had been accused by US authorities of failing to report more than 100,000 suspicious transactions, including with organisations the US described as terrorist groups, such as Hamas, and the exchange allegedly never reported transactions with websites dedicated to selling child sexual abuse materials.
As part of the settlement agreement, Zhao had been allowed to keep his vast fortune (he is worth $10.2bn) and his shareholding in Binance, the exchange he founded in 2017, which raised questions about how much influence he would continue to exert on Binance going forward.
Zhao was born in China but is a Canadian and UAE citizen who resides in the United Arab Emirates.
Previous court filings showed that Zhao had paid a $175 million bail bond in order to remain on bail in the US, with another $15 million held in a trust account.
Zhao had agreed to return to the United States 14 days before sentencing, and also agreed to pay a $150 million penalty to the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
US prosecutors have previously said Zhao faces up to 18 months in prison, and Zhao has agreed not to appeal any sentence up to that length.
Prosecutors said they will take a position on how much jail time to seek closer to Zhao’s February sentencing.
Later in November Zhao was refused leave by a US judge to depart the United States, after he sought to return to the UAE to sent time with his family over the Christmas period.
But it has now emerged in the court filing this week, seen by CNBC, that Zhao again requested to leave the US and offered a huge equity stake in Binance as collateral.
In the letter last month, his lawyers reportedly asked Judge Jones to allow him to travel to Abu Dhabi on 4 January for a period of one to four weeks, so he could be present for the hospitalisation, surgery, and subsequent recovery period of a person whose name is redacted in the copy of the letter filed Wednesday.
Details of the medical procedure were also blacked out in the letter, CNBC reported, which noted that federal prosecutors had not consented to Zhao’s request.
Judge Jones reportedly held a closed hearing on the request on 29 December, and denied Zhao’s bid to travel, court records show.
The judge has previously said Zhao’s “enormous wealth” made him a significant flight risk.
Zhao is due to be sentenced on 23 February.