Binance France chief brushed off concerns days before police visit

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Changpeng Zhao, founder and chief executive officer of Binance, waves as he arrives on stage for a panel session on the second day at the Vivatech Conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The conference, also known as VivaTech, runs though to June 18. Photographer: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

PARIS — Days before French police visited Binance’s Paris office, the crypto exchange’s top French executive dismissed concerns about U.S. regulatory charges impacting Binance’s other operations, comparing them to the flapping of a butterfly’s wings.

French prosecutors have opened a probe into “aggravated money-laundering” by the crypto exchange, Le Monde reported Friday, adding in a statement that the company was also being probed over operating an unauthorized exchange.

Just days before the raid, CNBC asked Binance France president David Prinçay if he was concerned about charges from the top two U.S. financial regulators against the exchange.

“I don’t care what happened in the U.S.,” Prinçay retorted, speaking at the Proof of Talk summit in Paris. “We are in Europe, with a French regulator, a European regulator.”

Prinçay insisted that Binance.US assets were separated from the international exchange, an assertion also made by the exchange’s legal team. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which charged Binance last week with 13 securities charges, disagrees, arguing that Binance user funds are at “significant risk” of flight due to founder Changpeng Zhao’s alleged ownership of an interlocking set of Binance-related companies.

Binance France’s chief called the U.S. allegations of commingling a “car crash.”

“The only concerns I have right now is that we look too much at the car crash and not to drive,” Prinçay said.

Binance’s founder, Changpeng Zhao, dismissed the police statement and reporting as “FUD,” claiming it was a “surprise on-site” inspection that was “the norm.”

“We will not comment on the specifics of law enforcement or regulatory investigations except to say that information about our users is held securely and only provided to government officials upon receipt of documented appropriate justification,” the exchange said in another statement.

Prinçay did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the police visit.

Binance faces over a dozen charges from the SEC and a similar slate of allegations from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. A reported Department of Justice probe is also ongoing into the exchange, according to an SEC complaint.

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