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Binance founder sentenced to four months in prison for money laundering

BY Busola Aro

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Changpeng Zhao, the founder of Binance, has been sentenced to four months in prison for money laundering, unlicensed money transmitting and violations in Seattle, United States (US).

At a sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Richard Jones, the presiding judge, said Zhao put “Binance’s growth and profits over compliance with US laws and regulations”. 

According to US officials, Zhao intentionally turned a blind eye to transactions that financed terrorism, the illegal drug trade, and child sex abuse.

“I failed here. I deeply regret my failure, and I am sorry,” Zhao told the court.

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“I believe the first step of taking responsibility is to fully recognise the mistakes. Here I failed to implement an adequate anti-money-laundering programme.  I realise now the seriousness of that mistake.”

The four-month sentence is lower than the three years prosecutors sought.

Prosecutors told the judge a tough sentence would send a clear signal to other would-be criminals.

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“We are not suggesting that Mr. Zhao is Sam Bankman-Fried or that he is a monster,” Kevin Mosley, one of the prosecutors, said. 

“But Zhao’s conduct wasn’t a mistake. This wasn’t a regulatory ‘oops.”

On November 21, 2023, Zhao pleaded guilty to money laundering.

Binance also agreed to pay more than $4 billion in fines and other penalties.

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Meanwhile, Binance subsidiary in Nigeria is facing charges for illicit foreign exchange (FX) transactions. 

Nadeem Anjarwalla, Binance’s regional manager for Africa, and Tigran Gambaryan, its head of financial crime compliance, were charged with tax evasion and money laundering by the federal government.

The duo were arrested and detained on February 28.

However, Anjarwalla escaped custody in March.

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Zhao’s sentence is coming less than one month after Sam Bankman-Fried, former CEO and founder of Futures Exchange (FTX), was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of defrauding his customers, investors, and lenders.

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