Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao, the name known to every hodler, the former CEO of Binance, finds himself embroiled in legal challenges after pleading guilty to violating U.S. Anti-Money Laundering requirements. As the sentencing date approaches, CZ’s fate hangs in the balance, with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) indicating a potential for harsher punishment than initially anticipated.

More Info on CZ: СZ’s Guilty Plea, $4.3 Billion Settlement, and the Future of Crypto

Screenshot of the U.S. government’s reply to the motion to review Zhao’s travel restrictions. Source: Reuters

Challenging Travel Restrictions and Potential Harsher Punishment

CZ’s sentencing is scheduled for February 2024, but his legal battles are far from over. Currently, he is challenging the government’s efforts to prevent his return to the United Arab Emirates, where he awaits sentencing with his family. However, a recent court filing from November 24 suggests that CZ may face a more severe punishment than initially expected. The DOJ states that the top-end of the sentencing guidelines range could be as high as 18 months, with the possibility of arguing for a sentence of up to ten years.


Sentencing Guidelines and Legal Experts’ Opinions

Legal experts’ opinions differ from the DOJ’s stance on the potential sentence length. According to analysis by former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission official John Reed Stark, CZ could receive a minimum-security prison sentence of 12-18 months under U.S. guidelines. CZ’s legal team is likely to seek no jail time or an alternative sentence, such as a combination of prison time, home detention, and probation. Stark raises concerns that if the DOJ fails to secure a sentence that deters future money laundering conduct in the crypto industry, the plea deal could backfire on them.

Pursuing a Longer Jail Term

The DOJ’s pursuit of a longer jail term for CZ may encounter challenges. Stark suggests that government officials would need to present substantial evidence linking CZ to criminal activity. He speculates that the monitoring and remedial requirements imposed on Binance could potentially reveal more severe crimes, strengthening the case for a lengthier sentence. The government’s motion regarding CZ’s travel restrictions is expected to be reviewed by Judge Richard Jones, who may consider additional bond conditions or delay a decision.

Controversy and Contrasting Regulatory Standards

The Binance/CZ case has sparked controversy among legal and business experts. Omid Malekan, an author and adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, highlights the stark contrast between the DOJ’s approach to Binance and traditional finance. Malekan suggests that if traditional banks were held to the same standards as Binance, numerous managing directors would be in jail. This raises questions about fairness and the need for consistent regulatory standards across the financial sector.



As CZ’s sentencing date approaches, the future remains uncertain for Binance’s former CEO. The DOJ’s pursuit of a potentially lengthier sentence has raised eyebrows among legal and business communities.

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The outcome of this case will not only impact CZ’s personal fate but also carry implications for the crypto industry as a whole. It remains to be seen whether the DOJ can present compelling evidence to support their case, while CZ’s legal team will undoubtedly fight for a more lenient outcome. The crypto community will be closely watching as this legal saga unfolds.

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