FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried is planning to consent to extradition to the US to face criminal charges related to the cryptocurrency exchange’s collapse, people familiar with the matter said.
Bankman-Fried has been in custody in the Bahamas since he was arrested on 12 December in connection with several US criminal charges, which were unsealed a day later. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged Bankman-Fried with fraud and money-laundering offences, alleging he defrauded customers, lenders and investors. They also alleged he violated campaign-finance rules by making illegal political contributions.
Bankman-Fried’s legal plans are still in flux and could change in the coming days depending on developments surrounding his case, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Bankman-Fried’s team is expecting that he will appear in a Nassau court for additional proceedings as soon as 19 December, the person said.
Lawyers for Bankman-Fried didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for the US attorney’s office declined to comment.
Details about the conditions of Bankman-Fried’s custody have been sparse in recent days. He has been detained at a facility in Nassau known as Fox Hill Prison which has faced criticism for its conditions in the past.
Bankman-Fried’s team had delivered meals that met his dietary needs, but as of 16 December weren’t sure whether he had received them, another person familiar with the matter said.
READ FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried says he didn’t know scale of bad Alameda bets
Bankman-Fried’s case in Manhattan has already been assigned to US District Judge Ronnie Abrams. If and when he is transferred from the Bahamas to the US, he would be expected to make an initial court appearance shortly thereafter, where the charges against him could be read and he may enter a plea. Bankman-Fried could also make a request for bail. He was denied bail in the Bahamas last week.
If Bankman-Fried waives his right to challenge extradition, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation would accompany him to the US on a government plane, according to a person familiar with the thinking of US law enforcement.
His plans to agree to extradition were reported earlier by Reuters.
FTX, a global cryptocurrency exchange that managed billions in assets for customers, collapsed in November as allegations surfaced that it was funnelling customer money to fund trades that went south at Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund owned by Bankman-Fried. New FTX management estimates that the company has lost more than $7bn in assets.
In a string of media appearances prior to his arrest, Bankman-Fried denied knowingly commingling customer funds. However, US authorities have claimed he used customer funds from the start of his cryptocurrency exchange to support his hedge fund and to make venture investments, real-estate purchases and political donations.
The indictment of Bankman-Fried included an array of broad charges but provided few specifics about the executive’s alleged conduct. Legal observers said that approach would give prosecutors flexibility in navigating the rules involving extradition, because it would be difficult to add more charges later on.
Separate from the criminal charges, the Securities and Exchange Commission brought related civil charges against Bankman-Fried. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission also sued him, linking his allegedly fraudulent conduct at Alameda and FTX to markets that the CFTC regulates.
Before his arrest, Bankman-Fried had been scheduled to appear virtually before Congress on 13 December.
Bankman-Fried has been based since last year in the Bahamas, where he moved FTX’s headquarters from Hong Kong. The subsidiary housing FTX’s international exchange is domiciled in the Bahamas and most of FTX’s core operations were managed out of Nassau.
Since resigning as FTX’s chief executive in November, Bankman-Fried has been cooperating with authorities in the Bahamas on the wind-down of the exchange. Separately, John J. Ray III, FTX’s new chief executive, has sought bankruptcy protection for around 100 other FTX subsidiaries, including Alameda Research and FTX’s American business unit.
Ray and his lawyers have accused the Bahamas of taking money belonging to the bankrupt FTX away from their reach as those authorities have wound down the Bahamian company housing the exchange.
READ How the SEC is using Sam Bankman-Fried’s interview blitz against him
They have also asserted that Bankman-Fried has been directly cooperating with Bahamian officials to help orchestrate the seizure of funds belonging to the bankrupt companies. Testifying before Congress on 13 December, Ray estimated that Bahamian authorities moved several hundreds of millions of dollars away from their control in November.
Because of lax corporate controls and a lack of detailed record-keeping at FTX, Ray testified, there could be an unknown amount of cryptocurrency assets located in wallets that his team has no record of and may have no control over.
For their part, Bahamian officials have said they are acting in accordance with local laws and are looking to protect FTX creditors. Bahamas attorney general Ryan Pinder disputed the accusations made by Ray, saying “the prospect of multimillion-dollar fees is driving their legal strategy and intemperate statements”.
FTX’s chapter 11 case is in its early stages. The company is scheduled to appear in bankruptcy court in January over ongoing disputes it has with the Bahamian authorities, who have asked Ray and his lawyers to disclose email records and company data they are seeking as they wind up FTX’s insolvent Bahamian subsidiary. FTX will also be in court next month for a separate hearing to seek approval for critical vendor payments, as well as to settle a dispute over keeping the identities of FTX’s largest customers and creditors anonymous, which the bankrupt exchange has requested.
Corinne Ramey contributed to this article.
Write to Alexander Saeedy at email@example.com, Justin Baer at firstname.lastname@example.org and James Fanelli at email@example.com
This article was published by The Wall Street Journal, part of Dow Jones