Binance Founder CZ’s Trial Begins Today: Lawyers Discuss Potential Prison Time |

Changpeng Zhao, also known as CZ, the founder and former CEO of Binance, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, is awaiting sentencing in a highly-anticipated court hearing in Seattle set to begin on Tuesday. 

In November, Zhao pleaded guilty to enabling money laundering on the Binance platform, marking a significant development in a case that has drawn attention due to the alleged violations of US law and the implications for the cryptocurrency industry.

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Former Prosecutors Weigh In On Sentencing

As previously reported by Bitcoinist, prosecutors have filed a sentencing memorandum requesting that Zhao be sentenced to three years in prison, twice the top end of the recommended guidelines. They argue that his crimes violated US law on an unprecedented scale. 

In contrast, Zhao’s defense team has requested a more lenient probation sentence of five months. They highlight Zhao’s acceptance of responsibility, his history of philanthropy and community service, and the significant time he has already spent away from his family since pleading guilty.

Legal experts have offered differing opinions on the likely outcome of the sentencing. Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, told CNBC that he expects a sentence of one to two years, given the case’s high-profile nature. 

Braden Perry, a former senior trial lawyer for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), suggests the advisory range of 10 to 16 months per sentencing guidelines but believes Zhao’s guilty plea and settlement with multiple agencies might influence the judge’s decision. 

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Yesha Yadav, a law professor at Vanderbilt University, predicts a sentence in the low single digits, potentially including minimal prison time and extended probation.

Other legal experts, such as Tre Lovell, a corporate law attorney, anticipate a shorter sentence of five to seven months, citing Zhao’s lack of fraud charges and his apologetic letter to the judge. 

Paul Tuchmann, a former federal and state prosecutor, emphasizes the need for general deterrence in the crypto industry and expects the DOJ to advocate for a sentence that conveys the consequences of violating financial rules.

Jail time is an important deterrent, said David Weinstein, a former federal and state prosecutor who now practices corporate compliance and white-collar defense at Jones Walker. He added that the sentence would be over in less than a year. 

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Binance’s Money Laundering Case

Prosecutors argue that Zhao operated Binance with a “Wild West” model, demonstrating a “deliberate disregard” for the exchange’s legal responsibilities

Zhao’s plea agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) required him to admit his involvement in facilitating money laundering activities on Binance. As part of the agreement, he agreed to step down as CEO, leading to the appointment of Richard Teng as the exchange’s new CEO. 

In addition to his guilty plea, Zhao has agreed to pay a $50 million fine. Binance was ordered to pay $4.3 billion in fines and forfeiture for violating the US Bank Secrecy Act and sanctions on Iran. 

The case involved a joint effort by the DOJ, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Treasury Department. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) pursued a separate case against Binance. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be for CZ and what other implications may be for the exchange.

The 1-D chart shows BNB’s price trending downwards. Source: BNBUSD on

As the market experiences a sharp correction, the exchange’s native token, Binance Coin (BNB), is trading at $565, down nearly 4% in the last 24 hours alone and over 6% in the previous 7 days. 

Featured image from NBC, chart from 

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Author: Ronaldo Marquez

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