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Criminal sentencing of Binance founder CZ postponed to late April

Changpeng Zhao, founder and CEO of Binance, attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris on June 16, 2022.

Benoit Tessier | Reuters

The criminal sentencing of Binance founder Changpeng Zhao on a money laundering rule charge has been postponed until April 30, according to a notice Monday in Seattle federal court.

That docket entry did not explain what would be a two-month delay in sentencing Zhao, a Canadian national widely known as “CZ” who is free on a $175 million release bond in the United States.

Zhao’s lawyer, William Burck, declined to comment when asked about the postponement. CNBC has asked the Department of Justice about the delay.

Federal sentencing guidelines suggest a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison for Zhao, but prosecutors reportedly have considered asking for a harsher sentence.

Zhao pleaded guilty on Nov. 21 to a charge of failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program at Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange. As part of that plea, he agreed to step down as Binance’s chief executive officer and to pay a $50 million fine.

Binance at the same time agreed to pay $4.3 billion in fines and restitution as part of its guilty plea to conspiracy to conduct an unlicensed money-transmitting business, conducting such a business and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

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“Binance was allowing illicit actors to transact freely, supporting activities from child sexual abuse to illegal narcotics to terrorism,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen when the company and Zhao pleaded guilty.

Zhao originally was scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 23.

The judge in Zhao’s case in early December rejected his request to be able to travel to his home in the United Arab Emirates before he is sentenced.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones cited Zhao’s “enormous wealth” and lack of ties to the United States in finding he was a flight risk.

Jones in late December rejected another bid by Zhao to travel to the U.A.E. Zhao in his new application had said he wanted to travel home for the “hospitalization and surgery” of a person in his life.

He had offered to post his equity in Binance as security for his return.

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