The deal - involving the DoJ, Treasury Department and CFTC - resolves allegations that Binance failed to maintain a proper anti-money laundering programme, operated an unlicensed money-transmitting business and violated sanctions law, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday.
The world's largest crypto exchange will forfeit $2.5 billion to the government and pay a fine of $1.8 billion.
Zhao has pleaded guilty to violating the Bank Secrecy Act and causing a financial institution to violate the same act. He will pay a $50 million fine, quit as CEO and be barred from any involvement in running Binance, which he founded in 2017. Former chief compliance officer Samuel Lim is also being charged as part of the settlement.
“Binance became the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange in part because of the crimes it committed – now it is paying one of the largest corporate penalties in US history,” says Attorney General Merrick Garland.
DoJ press conference
Binance has been on the Justice department's radar for several years. In March, the CFTC filed civil charges, alleging the firm had failed in it duty to perform identity verification checks and implement compliance controls to prevent money laundering over the platform.
Binance and Zhao also face an SEC lawsuit alleging a host of securities law violations and accusing the world's largest crypto exchange of engaging in an "extensive web of deception".