Published: 2023-11-22 11:05
Last Updated: 2024-02-25 02:14
Binance chief executive Changpeng Zhao pleaded guilty Tuesday to US money laundering charges, in a deal that will see the cryptocurrency exchange he founded pay over USD 4 billion in penalties.
"Binance became the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange in part because of the crimes it committed –- now it is paying one of the largest corporate penalties in US history," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
Binance's guilty plea is part of coordinated action including with the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Department of Justice said.
Zhao pleaded guilty to failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program, the Department of Justice said, and he has resigned from his position of CEO.
Zhao, who lives abroad, entered his plea in person in the United States, added Garland.
Binance's agreements with the Treasury Department's agencies include a civil money penalty of $3.4 billion and a USD 968 million penalty involving OFAC. These mark the agencies' largest settlements in history.
"Binance turned a blind eye to its legal obligations in the pursuit of profit," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
"Its willful failures allowed money to flow to terrorists, cybercriminals and child abusers through its platform."
She noted Binance "deliberately undermined its own sanctions monitoring controls," allowing over 1.5 million virtual currency trades violating US sanctions, and failed to report suspicious transactions.
Yellen said the penalties, and a five-year monitorship imposed on Binance, mark a "milestone for the virtual currency industry."