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U.S. Prosecutors Recommend 36-Month Prison Term for Binance Founder Changpeng Zhao

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In a significant development in the legal saga surrounding Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, U.S. prosecutors have recommended a 36-month prison term for its founder, Changpeng Zhao.

The recommendation follows Zhao’s guilty plea to violating laws against money laundering, a pivotal moment in the ongoing legal battle between Binance and U.S. authorities.

Zhao, commonly known as CZ, stepped down as Binance’s chief last November, simultaneously admitting to the violations alongside the exchange.

The firm agreed to a hefty penalty of $4.32 billion as part of the settlement with prosecutors.

According to court filings submitted to the U.S. district court for the western district of Washington, prosecutors argued that the magnitude of Zhao’s willful violation of U.S. law warranted an above-guidelines sentence.

While federal sentencing guidelines set a maximum term of 18 months in prison for Zhao, prosecutors emphasized the severity of the violations and their consequences in advocating for the extended sentence.

The legal scrutiny surrounding Binance stems from allegations that the exchange failed to report over 100,000 suspicious transactions involving designated terrorist groups such as Hamas, al Qaeda, and ISIS.

Furthermore, prosecutors alleged that Binance’s platform facilitated the sale of child sexual abuse materials and served as a recipient of a significant portion of ransomware proceeds.

As part of the settlement, Zhao agreed to pay a $50 million fine and disengage from any involvement with Binance, the platform he founded in 2017.

The penalties imposed on Binance included a staggering $1.81 billion criminal fine and restitution of $2.51 billion.

The recommendation for a 36-month prison term underscores the seriousness with which U.S. authorities are addressing violations within the cryptocurrency industry.

The outcome of Zhao’s sentencing, scheduled for April 30 in Seattle, will likely have far-reaching implications for both Binance and the broader cryptocurrency ecosystem.

As regulatory scrutiny intensifies, stakeholders across the industry are closely monitoring developments to gauge their impact on the future of cryptocurrency exchanges and their founders.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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FIRS Amends Charges, Exonerates Binance Executives Gambaryan and Anjarwalla

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The Federal High Court on Friday exonerated Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) tax evasion case against the cryptocurrency exchange platform, Binance.

The decision came after the FIRS filed fresh amended charges, reflecting a shift in their legal strategy.

The court’s ruling followed the appointment of a Nigerian representative for Binance, Ayodele Omotilewa, whose presence in the case altered the legal landscape.

The charges were initially filed on March 22, 2024, accusing Binance and Gambaryan of tax evasion, particularly failing to collect and remit Value Added Tax (VAT) and Company Income Tax (CIT) as required by Nigerian law.

During the proceedings, counsel for Binance, Tonye Krukrubo SAN, informed Justice Emeka Nwite that Binance had officially notified the FIRS and the court of Omotilewa’s appointment as their Nigerian representative.

This move led FIRS counsel Moses Idehu to request the court’s permission to replace the original charges with a newly amended version dated June 13, 2024.

The fresh charges now list Binance as the sole defendant, effectively removing Gambaryan and Anjarwalla from the case.

The charges allege that Binance offered cryptocurrency trading services to Nigerians without remitting the necessary taxes from its operations, specifically citing the non-deduction of VAT.

“That you, BINANCE HOLDINGS LTD, on or about the 1st February 2024, in Abuja, FCT, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, whilst involved in the offering of services to subscribers on your trading platform, known as Binance, did aid and abet those subscribers on your trading platform to unlawfully refuse to pay taxes, or neglect to pay those taxes and in so doing committed an offence contrary to and punishable under the provisions of S.94 of the Companies Income Tax Act (as amended),” one of the charges reads.

The court session highlighted a legal debate over whether Binance’s Nigerian representative should physically enter the dock to take a plea on behalf of the corporation.

Krukrubo argued that Nigerian law does not mandate a company representative to stand in the dock, while Idehu urged the court to require it.

Justice Nwite directed both parties to file written arguments on this issue for a future ruling.

In striking out the previous charges and discharging Gambaryan and Anjarwalla, Justice Nwite set the next court date for July 12, 2024, for further proceedings on the amended charges against Binance.

This development marks a crucial turning point in the ongoing legal battle between Binance and Nigerian authorities.

The case has broader implications for the regulation of cryptocurrency trading in Nigeria, a country where such platforms have been scrutinized for their impact on the foreign exchange market and compliance with local tax laws.

Background tensions have been high since Nigerian authorities detained Gambaryan and Anjarwalla earlier this year.

The Federal Government has accused cryptocurrency exchanges like Binance of influencing foreign exchange rates, leading to stricter oversight and legal actions.

Despite these challenges, Binance remains a significant player in Nigeria’s cryptocurrency market, with a reported turnover of over $20 billion in 2023.

The outcome of this case could set important precedents for the taxation and regulation of digital asset platforms in Nigeria and beyond.

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Binance’s BNB Token Hits Record $717 as Co-Founder Zhao Begins Jail Sentence

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Binance’s BNB token surged to a record high of $717.48 last week as Changpeng Zhao, the company’s co-founder, commenced a four-month prison sentence.

This rally revealed Zhao’s unique status as the wealthiest individual ever to serve time in a U.S. federal facility.

Zhao, often referred to as “CZ” within the cryptocurrency community, reported to a California prison on Tuesday to begin his sentence.

The charges stem from his failure to adequately safeguard Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, against money laundering activities.

This legal battle culminated in Binance agreeing to a historic $4.3 billion fine to settle allegations with U.S. authorities, in addition to Zhao paying a $50 million personal fine.

Despite these challenges, BNB’s value has more than doubled since the beginning of the year, lifting its market capitalization to $109 billion, according to CoinGecko data.

Binance’s resilience during this period has been reflected in its assets under management, which have grown from approximately $80 billion in early January to $125 billion today.

Holders of BNB benefit from trading fee discounts on Binance and use the token to settle fees on the BNB Smart Chain, a blockchain that supports a variety of crypto applications, including games and decentralized exchanges.

This broad utility, along with strong demand, has driven the token’s impressive performance.

The recent surge in BNB’s price was hinted at by derivative market trading patterns observed in late May.

Spot demand for the token began to pick up in June, with buying activity consistently outpacing selling between June 2 and June 5, according to Kaiko analyst Dessislava Aubert.

BNB trades on more than a dozen centralized exchanges, distinguishing it from other exchange tokens that are typically limited to their respective platforms.

Nonetheless, Binance still accounts for 85% of BNB’s global trading volume.

Binance has faced intense scrutiny for alleged anti-money laundering and sanctions breaches, with accusations that it failed to prevent access by militant groups such as Hamas and Al Qaeda.

However, the company’s dominance in the crypto market remains unshaken, as evidenced by BNB’s meteoric rise.

Changpeng Zhao’s personal wealth, estimated at $38.5 billion, is largely tied to BNB. Despite the legal challenges, his net worth has increased by $4.1 billion in 2024, positioning him as the 40th richest person globally, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Zhao’s holdings of BNB, though undisclosed, are significant, with a 2017 whitepaper from BNB’s initial coin offering indicating that 80 million tokens were allocated to the founding team.

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PEPE and MOG Tokens Rally on Rising Interest Following Ethereum ETF News

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In the world of cryptocurrency, sometimes it’s not just about the big names like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Two lesser-known tokens, PEPE and MOG, have recently been making headlines for their consistent increase in value, driven by rising interest and optimism in the Ethereum ecosystem.

PEPE, featuring a frog-themed design, and MOG, adorned with a cat motif, have experienced unprecedented gains, reaching record highs on Monday.

The surge in value can be attributed to last week’s approval of key ether (ETH) exchange-traded fund (ETF) filings in the U.S., which has prompted some traders to view meme tokens like PEPE and MOG as potential beta bets.

Over the past 24 hours, PEPE has soared by 11% while MOG has seen an astonishing 45% jump in value. These gains are significant, especially considering the broader market context.

While Bitcoin (BTC) experienced a slight decline of 1%, Ethereum rose nearly 5%, leading the charge among major tokens. The CoinDesk 20 index, which tracks the largest tokens excluding stablecoins, saw a marginal decrease of 0.3%.

The surge in PEPE and MOG prices has been accompanied by a surge in trading volumes and open interest in futures contracts.

PEPE’s trading volumes across spot and futures markets surpassed $1.8 billion, compared to its usual range of $400 million to $600 million.

Similarly, futures data indicates a notable increase in open interest for both PEPE and MOG-tracked instruments, signaling the entry of new capital into the market.

Despite the bullish momentum, data from Coinalyze shows that the long-to-short ratio for PEPE is skewed in favor of bears, with 54% of traders betting against further price rises.

This suggests a degree of caution among investors, indicating that the market sentiment is not entirely one-sided.

The rally in PEPE and MOG tokens began when analysts raised the likelihood of Ethereum ETFs being approved for trading in the U.S. These tokens are considered by some traders as leveraged bets on the Ethereum ecosystem’s growth, hence their significant price appreciation in response to positive developments in the ETH market.

Since 2023, meme tokens like PEPE and MOG have gained prominence as beta bets on the ecosystems they are based on.

As the Ethereum network continues to expand and gain mainstream acceptance, tokens like PEPE and MOG are riding the wave of optimism, attracting attention from investors looking to capitalize on the potential upside of the Ethereum ecosystem.

The recent surge in PEPE and MOG tokens underscores the dynamic nature of the cryptocurrency market, where even obscure tokens can experience explosive growth under the right conditions.

As traders continue to monitor developments in the Ethereum ecosystem, the fate of tokens like PEPE and MOG will remain closely tied to the broader trends in the digital asset space.

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