In a historic move in the cryptocurrency space, Binance cofounder Changpeng Zhao has agreed to step down from the position of the company CEO and has pleaded guilty to violating US anti-money laundering charges brought down by the US Department of Justice. The settlement of the case comes at an unprecedented 4.3 billion dollars to resolve a long-running investigation into the world's largest cryptocurrency by trade volume. But who is Zhao, who created this massive empire and brought it to a fall, conceding a personal payment of 50 million dollars as a penalty to the US government? Let us take a closer look.
Popularly known as CZ among crypto enthusiasts, Zhao is a 44-year-old Canadian citizen who was born in China's Jiangsu province. He immigrated with his family to Vancouver, Canada at the age of 12, and eventually majored in computer science at McGill University in Montreal.
Zhao began his career in finance, interning at the Tokyo Stock Exchange and getting his first full-time job at Bloomberg Tradebook as a developer of futures trading software. Later, he founded his own tech startup Fusion Systems, an automated high-frequency trading platform.
It was not till 2013 that Zhao first got involved with cryptocurrency with projects such as Blockchain.info and OKCoin. As per reports, he also invested his entire wealth in Bitcoin. He eventually founded Binance in 2017 as a cryptocurrency exchange during the initial buzz around it. He also launched Binance coin, the platform's native cryptocurrency.
With a user-friendly interface, low trading fees, and support for a wide range of cryptocurrencies, Binance quickly gained popularity over competing platforms and became the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange by trade volume. In 2018, he was placed third in Forbes' list of “The Richest People In Cryptocurrency” with a net worth between 1-2 billion dollars.
The next year, he set up the US division of the business. In March 2023, Binance came under fire after the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) filed a lawsuit against Binance and Zhao accusing them breaking of money laundering laws and the lack of compliance and legal mechanisms to prevent suspicious transactions.
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