Four Reasons Why Changpeng Zhao Won’t Go to Jail

Changpeng Zhao likely no jail
Changpeng Zhao Will Likely Spend No Time in Jail

NOIDA ( — The case of Changpeng Zhao continues after the court delayed the sentencing hearing of the money laundering case. However, it seems history is indicating no jail time for the Binance CEO.

CZ was due for sentencing on Feb. 23, with a possible jail term of up to 18 months. The former Binance chief is currently out on a $175 million bond and cannot travel outside the US after pleading guilty to violating U.S. anti-money laundering laws.

However, despite pleading guilty, Zhao’s fate may not involve jail time. This outcome echoes a pattern in the financial world, where institutions and their leaders face fines but avoid incarceration. Here are four cases that illustrate why Changpeng Zhao might not serve time behind bars:

1. The Danske Bank Misdirection

Danske Bank, embroiled in a scandal for misleading investors about its anti-money laundering efforts in Estonia, faced the music with regulatory and financial penalties from the SEC.

Changpeng Zhao arrest
The SEC probe was not Danske Bank’s only problem

The bank agreed to a substantial settlement, including a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, leading to forfeiture of approximately $2.06 billion to resolve the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation.

The amount was part of an integrated global resolution involving a parallel proceeding with the US SEC. As a result, the Danske Bank ended up paying $413 million in charges.

Though the then-CEO of the bank resigned after the scandal came to light, authorities did not arrest anyone from the senior management of the institution. The spotlight on institutional rather than individual accountability meant jail time for specific bankers was off the table.

2. SEC Enforces Fines for Wells Fargo’s Reporting Lapses

Wells Fargo Advisors, caught in the SEC’s crosshairs for failing to file timely Suspicious Activity Reports, ended up settling the matter for $7 million.

The failure was primarily due to deficient implementation and failure to test a new version of its internal anti-money laundering (AML) transaction monitoring and alert system adopted in January 2019.

Additionally, Wells Fargo Advisors failed to timely file at least nine additional SARs after a failure to appropriately process wire transfer data into its AML transaction monitoring system.

Changpeng Zhao arrest
Wells Fargo management also got away with just fines

The SEC stated that compliance with AML obligations was vital to protect the investing public. Furthermore, AML compliance informs regulators about possible money laundering, terrorist financing, or other illegal money movement.

Through this enforcement action, we are not only holding Wells Fargo Advisors accountable, but also sending a loud and clear message to other registrants that AML obligations are sacrosanct

Gurbir S. Grewal, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said

Yet, the focus was on the entity’s procedural failings, highlighting a preference for monetary settlements over personal incarcerations. None of the charged advisors saw any jail time. The SEC was content with holding advisors “accountable.”

3. Credit Suisse and the Mozambique Scheme:

Three former Credit Suisse bankers were linked to a corruption and fraud scheme in Mozambique.

Andrew Pearse, a former Credit Suisse Group AG banker and head of its Global Financing Group at the time, pleaded guilty to charges related to wire fraud conspiracy connected to a $2 billion loan scheme to state-owned companies in Mozambique.

Changpeng Zhao jail, Four Reasons Why Changpeng Zhao Won’t Go to Jail
Credit Suisse bankers were found guilty of bribery and kickbacks

Pearse admitted to taking millions in kickbacks in connection with the loans and faced up to 20 years in jail.

Credit Suisse itself entered into a $547 million coordinated global resolution plan with criminal and civil authorities in the US and the UK. The goal of the plan was to resolve allegations of wire fraud stemming from the defrauding of U.S. and international investors via an $850 million loan to finance a tuna fishing project in Mozambique.

Despite the gravity of their actions, including kickbacks from a $2 billion scandal, the narrative focused on their roles within a larger institutional failure, suggesting a complex path to personal accountability. One of the Credit Suisse bankers avoided jail time after a judge cited her “extraordinary cooperation.”

4. SEC Settles: Chardan Capital Markets and ICBCFS’s Oversight Failings

When the SEC settled charges with Chardan Capital Markets LLC and ICBCFS for not reporting suspicious transactions, the resolution involved financial penalties, not jail sentences. This outcome underscores a regulatory approach centered on correcting systems rather than punishing individuals.

These precedents point towards a nuanced judicial and regulatory environment where financial crimes, particularly those entangled with systemic issues and complex international operations, often result in settlements, fines, and remedial measures rather than personal incarceration.

Changpeng Zhao’s case, with its significant settlement and his stepping down, fits into this broader narrative, suggesting that while accountability is demanded, the form it takes may not always mean time behind bars.

Leave a Comment

Related Articles

Our Partners