Binance's former chief has to stay in US until February sentencing -filing

FILE PHOTO: Zhao Changpeng, founder and chief executive officer of Binance, attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France June 16, 2022. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Former Binance chief Changpeng Zhao has to remain in the continental United States ahead of his sentencing for violating U.S. anti-money laundering laws, U.S. District Judge Richard Jones said on Thursday.

Last month, Binance Holdings agreed to pay over $4.3 billion and pleaded guilty to breaking U.S. anti-money laundering and sanctions laws. Zhao also pleaded guilty and faces a maximum prison sentence of 18 months under federal guidelines and has agreed not to appeal any sentence up to that length.

A magistrate judge previously said Zhao could return to the United Arab Emirates, where he has been living, ahead of his February sentencing hearing. Last month, the district judge said he would review the issue.

The Justice Department asked the judge to require Zhao to stay in the country, saying he posed a flight risk. Lawyers for Zhao disputed that assertion, noting that he paid a "substantial" bail package and voluntarily came to the United States to accept responsibility for his actions.

But in a court document filed on Thursday, the District Court judge in Seattle agreed with the Justice Department and said Zhao had not convinced the court he is unlikely to flee if allowed to return to the UAE.

"While the bail package is substantial, if not unprecedented, it is a package that appears to be largely comprised of assets beyond the government's reach," Jones said in Thursday's court filing.

Zhao is able to remain free and travel within the United States, according to the conditions of his bail. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23, 2024.

(Reporting by Chris PrenticeEditing by Chris Reese and Leslie Adler)

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