Changpeng Zhao, the billionaire founder of the giant cryptocurrency exchange Binance, was sentenced on Tuesday to four months in prison, a much lighter penalty than other crypto executives have faced since the industry imploded in 2022.

Mr. Zhao pleaded guilty last year to a money-laundering violation, acknowledging that his company allowed terrorist groups and other criminals to have access to its platform. Defense lawyers asked for probation without any prison time, while prosecutors requested a three-year sentence, calling it an “unprecedented” crime.

But Judge Richard A. Jones, who oversaw the case in U.S. District Court in Seattle, said in court on Tuesday that Mr. Zhao had taken responsibility for his offenses and was unlikely to break the law again.

“Your conduct does not warrant a 36-month sentence,” Judge Jones said. He called Mr. Zhao “a dedicated family man and a giving person” and praised his “staggering accomplishment” in building Binance.

Wearing a dark suit and light blue tie, Mr. Zhao, 47, did not visibly react as the sentence was announced. But he nodded vigorously during Judge Jones’s statement and touched his hand to his heart.

“I failed here,” Mr. Zhao said in brief remarks to the court. “I deeply regret my failure, and I’m sorry.”


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