4-year-old Binance investigation stalls because 3 different DOJ offices can’t agree how to proceed

December 12, 2022, 8:11 PM UTC
Changpeng Zhao, cofounder CEO of Binance
Any actions brought against Binance and its CEO, Changpeng Zhao, would be another significant hit to the crypto industry.
Ben McShane—Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

The Department of Justice has been looking into Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, since 2018, but intradepartmental disagreements are delaying the investigation’s conclusion, Reuters reported Monday, citing four anonymous sources.

The Binance query has to do with the crypto exchange’s compliance, or lack thereof, with U.S. anti-money-laundering laws and sanctions. The investigation followed reports of criminals using Binance to move money illicitly, according to Reuters.

Three different DOJ offices are involved: the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS), the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, and the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team.

Defense attorneys for Binance at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher have reportedly spoken to the Justice Department about possible plea deals, according to Reuters, which also reported that U.S. authorities otherwise have three options: bring indictments against Binance and top executives, including CEO Changpeng Zhao, negotiate a settlement, or take no action and close the case.

Some in the DOJ want to move forward aggressively using existing evidence, filing individual criminal charges against Binance executives, while others have advocated for collecting more evidence first, two confidential sources told Reuters.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment to Fortune.

Binance, for its part, has played down the Monday report. A company spokesperson told Fortune that regulators are doing a sweeping review of several crypto companies for similar issues.

“Binance has shown its commitment to security and compliance through large investments in our team as well as the tools and technology we use to detect and deter illicit activity,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Any actions brought against Binance would be another significant hit to the crypto industry, which is still reeling from the collapse of FTX last month. CZ played a role in that as he publicly declared in early November that Binance would sell its holdings of FTT, a token created by FTX, which led to a massive selloff. Binance was set to buy out the beleaguered crypto exchange but CZ backed out of the deal, leaving FTX with no option besides bankruptcy.

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