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Binance's former CEO could be the richest US prison inmate ever if sentenced with his $43 billion fortune

Jennifer Sor   

Binance's former CEO could be the richest US prison inmate ever if sentenced with his $43 billion fortune
  • Binance's founder CZ could end up being the richest-ever US prison inmate if he's sentenced on Tuesday.
  • Zhao currently has a $43 billion fortune, according to an estimate from Bloomberg.

Binance's former CEO Changpeng Zhao could be the richest person ever to be sentenced to prison if a judge finds the crypto magnate guilty after he pleaded guilty to violating anti-money laundering laws.

The Binance founder is set to appear in a Seattle Court for his sentencing on Tuesday, where he will learn if he faces prison time for his crypto exchange failing to meet US anti-money-laundering requirements. Zhao has already pleaded guilty to breaking the Bank Secrecy Act last year, a collection of laws that prohibit financial institutions from money laundering.

If he does go to jail, Zhao could be the richest inmate ever to be sentenced in the US, given his $43 billion fortune, per an estimate from Bloomberg. That's an even larger sum of money than Sam Bankman-Fried had in FTX's heyday, with his personal fortune peaking around $25.6 billion prior to the exchange's collapse, Forbes estimated.

CZ's fortune could continue to grow, even if he ends up serving time. Zhao stepped down as chief executive at Binance in November, but he still has majority ownership of the crypto exchange, The Wall Street Journal reported. Binance's board of directors is largely made up of his close contacts, according to Bloomberg, while He Yi, Binance's co-founder and mother to Zhao's three children, continues to run the company.

The Department of Justice, which brought charges against Zhao last year, is seeking to land CZ in prison for three years. That's double the 18-month standard, the high-end of prison time guidelines given Zhao's situation, according to a memo regulators filed last week.

Zhao has asked for no prison time. In a letter sent to a Seattle judge in February, he apologized for his "poor decisions" while running his crypto exchange. In April, his legal team suggested he be put on house arrest and probation instead, bringing up Zhao's "lack of criminal history, his extraordinary acceptance of responsibility," and his "devotion" to his family.

Binance has remained the largest crypto exchange by trading volume. The company processed over $19 billion in spot trades over the last 24 hours, according to CoinMarketCap data.


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