Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao Reportedly Pleads Guilty to U.S. Anti-Money Laundering Violations, Faces Imminent Departure

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Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) is said to have pled guilty to violating U.S. anti-money laundering (AML) requirements, a development that is anticipated to lead to his resignation from the helm of the leading cryptocurrency exchange. Reports indicate that Binance itself is expected to admit guilt in relation to money laundering violations, with CZ scheduled to appear in a Seattle court today. As of now, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has not provided any updates on the case against Binance.

The news of these legal troubles has triggered a volatile response in the market, notably impacting the value of Binance’s native token, BNB. The BNB token, backed by Binance, experienced a rapid surge to a five-month peak, reaching nearly $270. However, within a span of 30 minutes, the price dramatically plummeted to $240, showcasing the sensitivity of the market to regulatory developments.

This price turbulence coincides with expectations of an imminent settlement announcement by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding Binance. Key U.S. government officials, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chair Rostin Behnam, are scheduled to address a press conference today. The conference is expected to unveil “separate but related cryptocurrency enforcement actions,” with a reported settlement involving Binance.

Despite the recent surge in BNB’s price, reaching $269.92 on the 1-hour candle, the token remains 61% below its all-time high of $686 recorded during the crypto market’s bull run in 2021. The price retraced after hitting this peak, reflecting the uncertainties introduced by the SEC’s legal actions against Binance.

In a report from November 20, it was revealed that the DOJ was seeking a settlement exceeding $4 billion from Binance to resolve allegations of criminal activities, including money laundering, bank fraud, and sanctions violations. The same report hinted at the possibility of CEO CZ facing criminal charges.

Binance, holding a dominant position as the largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, with control over 50% of the market, has been under increased regulatory scrutiny. The exchange faced regulatory challenges across various jurisdictions, including the U.K., Nigeria, and several European countries, following the collapse of FTX last year, which brought renewed attention to Binance’s regulatory struggles.*