Changpeng Zhao was sentenced to four months in prison. The crypto billionaire is setting a record: he is the richest person to be put behind bars in the USA. The financial portal “Bloomberg” estimates his fortune at almost $40 billion and ranks him as the 38th wealthiest person in the world.

Zhao is the founder of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange. At the end of last year, Zhao and Binance pleaded guilty to money laundering, thereby enabling a settlement with US prosecutors. The company had to pay a fine of $4.3 billion and Zhao $50 million. In addition, the Chinese-born Canadian had to resign as head of the crypto exchange and will no longer be allowed to work for the company in the future. The 46-year-old waited until yesterday to decide whether and for how long he would have to go to prison.

Zhao, known in the crypto scene by his abbreviation CZ, was allowed to keep his shares in Binance – and with them his wealth. According to Bloomberg, 90 percent is attributed to him. He also owns the US Binance branch – in the most recent financing round in 2022, the exchange was valued at $4.7 billion. According to Binance, customers hold more than $100 billion worth of cryptocurrencies on the platform.

His billion-dollar fortune is expected to continue to grow while Zhao is in prison. The leading cryptocurrency Bitcoin has recovered from the crash following the collapse of the crypto exchange FTX and the conviction of its founder Sam Bankman-Frieds for financial fraud and money laundering. In March it even reached its previous record level of around $73,000. The price has now fallen to around $61,700, but Bitcoin has still gained almost 40 percent since the beginning of the year. Zhao says he owns Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – but which ones and to what extent are not known.

Zhao will continue to benefit from Binance, which makes money through fees on cryptocurrency trading. And even without a leadership position, he will have influence on the company. The crypto exchange is now run by two confidants: Yi He and Richard Teng. Yi is co-founder of Binance and the mother of three children with Zhao. Teng is a long-time confidante of Zhao and has taken over the job of CEO.

Zhao sees his future as an investor and is already preparing for the time after his stay in prison. He tweeted in November that he was interested in the areas of crypto, biotechnology and artificial intelligence. As the New York Times reports, Zhao has traveled around the USA in recent months to establish and maintain contacts with other entrepreneurs – including Sam Altman, the head of ChatGPT developer OpenAI.

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