Exclusive: U.S. Justice Dept is Split Over Charging Binance as Crypto World Falters, Sources Say

  • Some DOJ prosecutors believe evidence justifies filing charges against executives including CEO Zhao
  • DOJ officials have discussed possible plea deals with Binance’s attorneys
  • Binance is under investigation for possible money laundering and criminal sanctions violations
  • Binance says it has no insight into the “inner workings of the US Justice Department”

WASHINGTON, Dec 12 (Reuters) – Splits between U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors are delaying the conclusion of a long-running criminal investigation into the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange Binance, four people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

The investigation began in 2018 and is focused on Binance’s compliance with U.S. anti-money laundering laws and sanctions, these people said. Some of the at least half dozen federal prosecutors involved in the case believe the evidence already gathered justifies moving aggressively against the exchange and filing criminal charges against individual executives including founder Changpeng Zhao, said two of the sources. Others have argued taking time to review more evidence, the sources said.

The inquiry involves prosecutors at three Justice Department offices: the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, known as MLARS, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington in Seattle and the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team. Justice Department regulations say that money laundering charges against a financial institution must be approved by the MLARS chief. Leaders from the other two offices, along with higher-level DOJ officials, would likely also have to sign off on any action against Binance, three of the sources said.


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