The founder of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge that he failed to take steps to prevent money laundering as the company agreed to pay more than $4 billion following an investigation by the U.S. government.
CEO Changpeng Zhao pleaded guilty to one count of failure to maintain an effective anti-money-laundering program in federal court in Seattle. Binance is a Cayman Islands limited liability company.
The plea comes as the company agreed to pay over $4 billion as part of an agreement with the U.S. government, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person confirmed the amount on the condition of anonymity ahead of an expected announcement.
The charge was similar to practices uncovered after the collapse of the second largest cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, last year.
Zhao had previously faced allegations of diverting customer funds, concealing the fact that the company was commingling billions of dollars in investor assets and sending them to a third party that Zhao also owned.
It comes months after the company was accused of operating as an unregistered securities exchange and violating a slew of U.S. securities laws in a lawsuit from regulators.
The cryptocurrency industry has been marred by scandals and market meltdowns. Sam Bankman-Fried, the 31-year-old founder of the failed cryptocurrency brokerage FTX, was convicted earlier this month of fraud for stealing at least $10 billion from customers and investors.