Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance, worlds largest peer-to-peer crypto company, is stepping down from the company he founded, as part of a settlement with the US Department of Justice. He pleaded guilty to violating anti-money laundering rules, and the company has been fined $4.1 billion in fines.
Zhao made the announcement on X on Tuesday evening. According to the former CEO, it was not an easy decision to let go emotionally, but leaving was the right thing to do.
“I made mistakes, and I must take responsibility. This is best for our community, for Binance, and for myself.,” Zhao wrote on X.
He will be replaced by Richard Teng, the company’s Global Head of Regional Markets.
“Richard is a highly qualified leader and, with over three decades of financial services and regulatory experience, he will navigate the company through its next period of growth. He will ensure Binance delivers on our next phase of security, transparency, compliance, and growth.
Prior to joining Binance, Richard was CEO of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority at Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM); Chief Regulatory Officer of the Singapore Exchange (SGX); and Director of Corporate Finance in the Monetary Authority of Singapore,” Zhao said.
The US Department of Justice indicted Zhao for violating the Bank Secrecy Act by “willfully” letting Binance operate without an effective anti-money laundering program. In doing so, Zhao allegedly allowed at least $890 million in transactions between US users and users the company found to be Irainians. The US government has strict sanctions on Iran.
Under Zhao, Binance also enabled transactions between US users and counterparts in other sanctioned jurisdictions, including Cuba, Syria, and illegally occupied regions of Ukraine, according to the indictment. It also alleged that Zhao gave priority to Binance growth and profits over compliance with US law.
In pleading guilty, Zhao admitted that Binance operated in what he described as a “grey zone”, however staff of the company were instructed that “it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”