Bankman-Fried returns to U.S. from Bahamas to face charges : Business



Comment

Disgraced cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried is set to return to the United States on Wednesday night to face criminal charges after dropping his objection to extradition from the Bahamas.

The former CEO of collapsed crypto exchange FTX waived his rights to extradition proceedings in a court appearance in Nassau on Wednesday morning, Bahamian officials said. The move cleared the 30-year-old former executive to return to the United States, where he is expected to be arraigned soon in federal court in Manhattan.

Bankman-Fried, dressed in a blue suit, affirmed to the judge that he would forgo a formal process. His local defense lawyer added that the former executive is “anxious to leave” the Bahamas, according to Reuters. The onetime crypto mogul is expected to return to the United States on Wednesday night, the Bahamian attorney general said in a statement.

Federal prosecutors last week announced eight criminal charges against Bankman-Fried, including fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and campaign finance violations. They allege that he defrauded investors and diverted billions of dollars in FTX customer money to his hedge fund, which he then used as a piggy bank to fund a lavish lifestyle, risky personal investments and political donations. His extradition could expedite resolution of the criminal and civil cases that the U.S. government is pursuing, according to legal experts.

The FTX founder was charged with multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy by the Justice Department, SEC and CFTC on Dec. 13. (Video: Joy Yi/The Washington Post, Photo: George Robinson/Bloomberg/The Washington Post)

It is not clear yet when Bankman-Fried will arrive in the United States and how he will plead in his first U.S. court appearance. But in a blitz of public appearances since FTX’s collapse last month, he has said he never intended to commit fraud and was largely unaware of what was going wrong at the companies he owned and controlled.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission are also bringing civil charges against Bankman-Fried. Those suits are likely to take a back seat while the criminal case proceeds, legal experts said.

Customers and investors who are owed money from FTX got a sliver of encouragement Tuesday. The company announced that an unspecified number of parties that received payments or contributions from FTX or Bankman-Fried have expressed an interest in returning the money. It offered guidance for others who would like to voluntarily give back funds — and a warning for those who don’t, saying it will start a bankruptcy court process to force repayments, including interest.

Bankman-Fried’s homecoming marks another bitter reckoning for a figure who until just months ago sat atop an estimated $16 billion personal fortune, now vaporized. Bankman-Fried was hailed in the mainstream press as the next Warren Buffett; he shared conference stages with world leaders and celebrities; and he won entree to the inner sanctums of power in Washington.

Bankman-Fried is ready to ‘face the music,’ prison official says

It all came crashing down in a matter of days last month, when a tweet from an investor turned rival sparked panic among FTX customers, who demanded billions of dollars worth of their deposits back. FTX didn’t have the money. Bankman-Fried’s efforts to find a last-minute, multibillion-dollar bailout came up short, and the firm declared bankruptcy.

An unusually swift investigation by federal authorities revealed what they called a “massive, years-long fraud,” dating back to FTX’s launch in 2019, with Bankman-Fried siphoning FTX customer funds to his hedge fund, Alameda Research.

Last Monday, the night before he was set to testify remotely before the House Financial Services Committee, Bankman-Fried was arrested by Bahamas police at his luxury Nassau condo. For the past nine nights, he has been held at Fox Hill, the island nation’s only prison, known for its poor conditions.

Paulina Villegas contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment