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Bankman-Fried in US custody, two associates plead guilty to FTX fraud

Prosecutors last week had charged the former billionaire with conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and election finance violations

By AFP
December 22, 2022
In this file photo taken on February 09, 2022 Samuel Bankman-Fried, founder and CEO of FTX, testifies during a Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry hearing.— AFP
In this file photo taken on February 09, 2022 Samuel Bankman-Fried, founder and CEO of FTX, testifies during a Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry hearing.— AFP 

NASSAU: US law enforcement on Wednesday took custody of Sam Bankman-Fried and were flying him from the Bahamas to New York, where prosecutors said two associates of the FTX founder had now pled guilty to charges related to the company's collapse.

Bankman-Fried is wanted in the United States after the collapse of his FTX cryptocurrency group — headquartered in the Bahamas — and on Wednesday waived his right to challenge an extradition request, the island nation´s attorney general said.

US Attorney Damian Williams announced Wednesday night that the FBI had taken the 30-year-old into custody and that he would be "transported directly to the Southern District of New York."

Prosecutors last week had charged him with conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and election finance violations.

Williams also said that two key figures in the case had pled guilty to charges related to the FTX collapse, and that they were cooperating with investigators.

The charges come just weeks after the three-year-old FTX and sister trading house Alameda Research collapsed into bankruptcy, dissolving a virtual trading business that had been valued by the market at $32 billion.

Prosecutors allege Bankman-Fried cheated investors in FTX, and misused funds that belonged to customers of FTX and Alameda Research.

He "was orchestrating a massive, years-long fraud, diverting billions of dollars of the trading platform´s customer funds for his own personal benefit and to help grow his crypto empire," US prosecutors said.

Five of the eight counts against him carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison each.

Separately the SEC accused him of violating securities laws.

Williams, the federal prosecutor, said that the two associates who pled guilty were Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison and FTX co-founder Gary Wang.

Their charges were "in connection with their roles in the frauds that contributed to FTX´s collapse," he said, but did not provide further details.

Williams's office did not respond to an AFP request for comment on the charges.

Separately, the SEC and Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC) announced Wednesday they had filed civil suits against Ellison and Wang and that they were cooperating, which should lead to a more lenient judgment in both cases.

The CFTC estimates that $8 billion in funds were misappropriated from FTX customer accounts.

Bankman-Fried, a Bahamas permanent resident, spent the past nine days in Nassau's Fox Hill prison, weighing his choices before telling the Nassau magistrate court Wednesday that he would not fight extradition.

According to US media, his attorneys had been attempting to negotiate with US justice authorities for his release on bail.