U.S. sought records on Binance CEO for crypto money laundering probe

U.S. sought records on Binance CEO for crypto money laundering probe

LONDON:  U.S. federal prosecutors asked Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, to provide extensive internal records about its anti-money laundering checks, along with communications involving its chief executive and founder Changpeng Zhao, according to a late-2020 written request seen by Reuters.

The Justice Department’s money laundering section asked Binance to voluntarily hand over messages from Zhao and 12 other executives and partners on matters including the exchange’s detection of illegal transactions and recruitment of U.S. customers. It also sought any company records with instructions that “documents be destroyed, altered, or removed from Binance’s files” or “transferred from the United States.”

The December 2020 request, which has not been previously reported, was part of a Justice Department investigation into Binance’s compliance with U.S. financial crime laws that remains ongoing, four people familiar with the inquiry said.

U.S. authorities, the people said, are investigating whether Binance violated the Bank Secrecy Act. This requires crypto exchanges to register with the Treasury Department and comply with anti-money laundering requirements if they conduct “substantial” business in the United States. The law, designed to protect the U.S. financial system from illicit finance, provides for jail terms of up to 10 years.

Reuters could not establish how Binance and Zhao, one of the most prominent figures in the crypto sector, responded to the request from the department’s criminal division.

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