A federal judge last month turned down a request from Binance founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao to travel to the United Arab Emirates, despite Zhao offering his $4.5 billion Binance equity as a security guarantee.
Zhao, who had pleaded guilty to charges related to the anti-money laundering at the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, is currently out on a $175 million release bond in the U.S. Binance agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties in the case. He is scheduled for sentencing in February and could face up to 18 months in prison.
In a letter dated December 22 to Judge Richard Jones, Zhao’s legal team requested permission for him to travel to Abu Dhabi from January 4 for one to four weeks. The purpose of the travel was to attend to a person undergoing hospitalization and surgery, whose identity remains undisclosed in the court documents.
The letter, which also had details of the medical procedure redacted, noted that federal prosecutors did not consent to Zhao’s request. Judge Jones conducted a closed hearing on Dec. 29 and subsequently denied Zhao’s request to travel, as indicated by court records.
This was not the first time Zhao’s travel request was denied. Earlier in December, Judge Jones refused another application for travel to the UAE, citing Zhao’s “enormous wealth” and potential flight risk. The judge pointed out Zhao’s substantial overseas assets and lack of ties to the United States, along with his family residing in the UAE, as reasons for the decision.
Judge Jones’s order on December 7 stated, “The defendant has enormous wealth and property abroad, and no ties to the United States. His family resides in the UAE and it appears that he has favored status in the UAE. Under these circumstances, the Court finds that the defendant has not established by clear and convincing evidence that he is not likely to flee if he returns to the UAE.”
Zhao’s defense argues that he does not pose a flight risk, as previously determined by Judge Brian Tsuchida, and that the government has not provided adequate grounds for an appeal to overturn this finding. They elaborated on CZ’s visibility as a global public figure and his track record, including a lack of criminal history and the non-violent nature of his offenses, to argue against the necessity of him staying in the U.S. before sentencing.