CZ quits as Binance CEO after $4.3 billion fine for money laundering

Changpeng Zhao, also known as ‘CZ’, has resigned as the CEO of Binance, the world’s biggest crypto exchange, after pleading guilty to charges of money laundering.

“Today I stepped down … it was not easy to let go emotionally … I made mistakes, and I must take responsibility,” he said in a post on X.

Richard Teng, previously the global head of regional markets at Binance, will step into CZ’s shoes as new CEO.

Also read: Who is Richard Teng? Binance CEO is a storied finance pro, has a renewed focus on decentralising the world’s money

Binance guilty of money laundering, unlicensed money transmitting

The US justice department said it had fined Binance $4.3 billion for engaging in anti-money laundering, unlicensed money transmitting, and sanctions violations.

“The Justice Department is requiring Binance to pay $4.3 billion in penalties and forfeiture,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement on November 21, 2023. “This is one of the largest penalties we have ever obtained from a corporate defendant in a criminal matter.”

Also read: US DOJ Deliberates Binance Fraud Charges

As well as fining Binance, the Justice Department also fined CZ $50 million, “for wilfully violating the Bank Secrecy Act … Zhao and other Binance executives engaged in a deliberate and calculated effort to profit from the U.S. market without implementing the controls required by U.S. law,” it said.

“It willfully enabled hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions between American users and users subject to U.S. sanctions.

“And its platform accommodated criminals across the world who used Binance to move their stolen funds and other criminal proceeds.”

Binance facilitated transfers between US and sanctioned countries and criminals

These criminal transactions included those between US users and sanctioned countries such as Iran, Syria and in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions of Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk.  

It also included transactions between US users and criminals using the darknet to launder their funds. “Between August 2017 and April 2022, there were direct transfers of approximately $106 million in bitcoin to wallets from Hydra … a popular Russian darknet marketplace, frequently utilized by criminals, that facilitated the sale of illegal goods and services,” the department said.

Also read: Vitalik Buterin Reveals How to Simplify Crypto for Everyone

Richard Teng Binance
Richard Teng becomes the new CEO at Binance.

New CEO Richard Teng looks forward to a different future at Binance

Teng, who joined Binance in August 2021 after 30 years of financial services experience, said in a post on X: “The trust placed on us by our 150m users and thousands of employees is a responsibility I take seriously …  I have accepted this role so that we can continue to meet and exceed expectations … while achieving our core mission, the freedom of money.”


James Durston

James Durston is the Editor-in-Chief for Blue Tech Wave, and a former editor and journalist for some of the world's biggest international media organisations.

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