Despite $4.3 Billion In Fines, Changpeng Zhao Stays On Forbes's Richest Crypto Billionaire List, Amassing More Than $33 Billion From Binance

Changpeng Zhao (CZ) has had a ride regarding crypto. From founding Binance in 2017 to pleading guilty to money laundering charges in 2023, CZ has seen its highs and lows. Despite the legal issues that CZ has faced, he remains the richest person in crypto and one of the top 50 richest people in the world.

CZ headed Binance since founding the company in 2017. The company quickly became one of the most popular crypto trading platforms in the world, and CZ played a crucial role in the company's success.

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However, it came as a surprise when CZ pleaded guilty to money laundering charges in the U.S. Since Binance is one of the largest exchanges in the world, it shocked many. CZ stepped down from his role as CEO and agreed to pay a fine of $50 million. However, his legal issues would continue.

Apart from paying personal fines, Binance as a company was also fined more than $4.3 billion. A statement from the U.S. Justice Department said, "Make no mistake: when you place profits over compliance with the law, you will answer for your crimes in the United States."

The lawsuit asserts that Binance offered derivative trading instruments on various cryptocurrencies that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) labeled as commodities. The CFTC argues that Binance did not get regulatory approval to offer these products and encouraged U.S. investors to use a VPN to avoid the regulations. 

CZ is awaiting sentencing in a Seattle court after paying a $175 million bond and is residing in the U.S. The length of the sentence will likely be around 18 months. However, the prosecution argues that "the reality is that the top-end of the Guidelines range may be as high as 18 months, and the United States is free to argue for any sentence up to the statutory maximum of ten years."

The sentencing was recently delayed until April 30. 

After CZ stepped down, some thought that Binance's reputation would not be able to recover. However, Richard Teng stepped up as the new CEO and has not only kept the company afloat but has allowed BNB to reach near all-time highs (ATHs). 

The resilience of BNB and Binance has allowed CZ to retain a large portion of his wealth. As of April 2024, his net worth is around $33 billion, according to Forbes. This number is largely based on his stake in Binance, which is estimated to be 90%, or around $32.5 billion. 

CZ is the richest person in crypto, nearly three times more wealthy than Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, who is the second richest person in crypto. Other names on the list include MicroStrategy chairman Michael Saylor and the Winklevoss twins.

With CZ's sentencing looming, it will be interesting to see what the future for the richest man in crypto has in store. 

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