FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried inched closer to being transferred into US custody to face criminal charges related to the cryptocurrency exchange’s collapse, after a chaotic court hearing here 19 December in which his local lawyer appeared at odds with his US legal team.
Bankman-Fried has agreed to be extradited, according to a person familiar with the matter, and plans were being fleshed out by his legal team after the day’s court proceedings. Bankman-Fried’s lawyers hope to have a new hearing on the matter as early as 20 December, the person said.
Jerone Roberts, who represents Bankman-Fried in the Bahamas, agreed to draft the necessary documents after having a conference call with the former chief executive and his US lawyers, the person said.
Over the weekend, people familiar with the matter said Bankman-Fried was planning to consent to extradition to the US but cautioned that his legal plans were still in flux and could change.
The 19 December hearing suggested Bankman-Fried’s US lawyers and Roberts weren’t in perfect alignment. Roberts told magistrate judge Shaka Serville that he was surprised to see his client in court.
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“Whatever trail that got him here this morning, it did not involve me,” Roberts said.
Franklyn Williams, of the Bahamas Department of Public Prosecutions, said in court that a US lawyer for Bankman-Fried had contacted his office over the weekend.
“We understood that Bankman-Fried intended to waive his extradition,” Williams said.
Roberts said he was unaware of that development. He said he needed documents, including the US indictment, to review with Bankman-Fried before his client could make a decision on whether to waive any objection to his transfer to the US.
Judge Serville granted a request for Bankman-Fried and Roberts to confer with the former executive’s US lawyers.
Bankman-Fried was later escorted back to jail by a caravan of armed police officers and jail officials.
Bankman-Fried was dressed in a navy blue blazer with an untucked white shirt, one of his knees bouncing up and down throughout the proceeding. He spoke briefly to answer the judge’s questions and during the exchange was told by a court officer to stand up straight.
Bankman-Fried, 30 years old, was indicted last week on eight criminal counts, including fraud and conspiracy offences. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan accused him of stealing billions of dollars of FTX customers’ funds for his personal use and to repay loans owed by Alameda Research, his crypto hedge fund. He also defrauded lenders and investors by concealing his misuse of customer funds, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, Bankman-Fried also made illegal political contributions funded by Alameda, disguising the true source of the funds to evade reporting requirements and contribution limits.
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Bankman-Fried has said he bore responsibility for FTX’s collapse but has denied he committed any fraud.
Personnel from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department attended the 19 December hearing. FBI agents would accompany Bankman-Fried to the US in a government aircraft.
Bankman-Fried has been in custody since his arrest a week ago and has been held at Fox Hill Prison, a Bahamas facility that has faced criticism for its conditions in the past.
If and when Bankman-Fried arrives in the US, he will likely appear in federal court in New York, where he would be arraigned and expected to enter a plea. He is likely to initially be held in a federal jail, although his lawyers could make an application for him to be released on bail.
His case has been assigned to US District Judge Ronnie Abrams, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan who joined the court in 2012 after being nominated by President Barack Obama.
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This article was published by The Wall Street Journal, a fellow Dow Jones Group title
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