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FTX boss accused of $40m bribe attempt

Sam Bankman-Fried faces up to 100 years in prison

Anthony Cuthbertson
Wednesday 29 March 2023 10:38 BST
Sam Bankman-Fried, known as SBF, founded and ran the FTX cryptocurrency exchange until his explosive ousting in November
Sam Bankman-Fried, known as SBF, founded and ran the FTX cryptocurrency exchange until his explosive ousting in November (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried has been accused of attempting to pay a $40 million (£32m) bribe to Chinese officials in an attempt to unfreeze $1 billion in cryptocurrencies.

It means the disgraced crypto boss now faces 13 criminal charges relating to the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange, which was forced to file for bankruptcy in November 2022 after questions surrounding its finances led to a rush of withdrawals.

Mr Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas in December and brought to the United States soon afterward, where he has remained free on a $250 million personal recognizance bond that lets him stay with his parents in Palo Alto, California.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges that he cheated investors out of billions of dollars before his business collapsed.

The alleged bribes stemmed from the operation of Alameda Research, which is affiliated with FTX, Mr Bankman-Fried’s global cryptocurrency exchange.

The indictment said Chinese law enforcement authorities in early 2021 froze certain Alameda cryptocurrency trading accounts on two of China‘s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. The accounts, it said, contained about $1 billion in cryptocurrency.

Mr Bankman-Fried understood that the accounts had been frozen by Chinese authoritIes as part of an ongoing probe of a particular Alameda trading counterparty, the indictment said.

After Mr Bankman-Fried failed several attempts to unfreeze the accounts through the use of lawyers and lobbying, Mr Bankman-Fried ultimately agreed to direct a multimillion dollar bribe to try to unfreeze the accounts, the indictment said.

The bribe payment of cryptocurrency then worth about $40 million was moved from Alameda’s main trading account to a private cryptocurrency wallet in November 2021 and the frozen accounts were unfrozen at about the same time, the indictment said.

Meanwhile Tuesday, Mr Bankman-Fried’s lawyers also sent Judge Lewis A. Kaplan a new to limit him to a laptop and a phone and block him from using any other phones, tablets, computers, video games or “smart” devices with internet access other than electronic devices owned by his lawyers that he might need to prepare for trial.

Judge Kaplan set a Thursday hearing in the case. If found guilty, Mr Bankman-Fried faces more than 100 years in prison.

Additional reporting from agencies

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