Sam Bankman Fried, founder of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, is expected to return to the United States on Wednesday to face criminal charges after giving up his right to challenge his extradition from the Bahamas.
After several days of conflicting signals from Bankman-Fried’s US and Bahamas legal teams, the disgraced crypto king appeared in court in Nassau to inform a justice of the peace of his decision.
At the hearing, Bankman-Fried agreed to be extradited to the United States. Reuters reported that his lawyer read an affidavit in which Bankman-Fried said he decided to agree to the extradition in part “in his desire to make the clients involved whole.”
After the hearing, Bankman-Fried was to be transferred to US custody and returned to the US to stand trial on criminal fraud charges connected to FTX’s dramatic collapse.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York charged Bankman Fried, 30, with eight felony counts, including fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, including making illegal political contributions.
In a series of sometimes confusing media interviews, Bankman-Fried said he did not plan to commit fraud and was unaware of what was going on at Alameda Research, a hedge fund he founded and allegedly received billions in client money from FTX.
Federal prosecutors hinted strongly last week that some members of the FTX-Alameda team in the Bahamas had become government witnesses. “This was not a case of mismanagement or poor oversight, but willful fraud, plain and simple,” US Attorney Damien Williams said last week.
Bankman-Fried’s wrongdoings, Williams said, included “defrauding clients, investors, lenders, and our campaign finance system.”
Bankman Fried’s return to the US resolves what appeared to be a dispute between his legal team in the US and the Bahamas. At a chaotic hearing in Nassau on Monday, Bankman Fried’s attorney in the Bahamas, Jeron Roberts, told the judge he did not know the reason for the proceedings.
After speaking with both teams of attorneys, Bankman-Fried reportedly agreed to extradition.
said Jeffrey Lichtman, a defense attorney who has been involved in a number of high-profile criminal defense cases, including that of drug enforcement chief Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Lichtman added, “If he waives extradition, he won’t stand trial. That’s not exactly a surprise in a case like this because he might not have a defense. In a situation where the fraud is obvious and easy to prove, he might not stand trial, so it’s very likely that he’s looking to get The best deal possible.
In Lichtman’s view, Bankman-Fried is likely to try to cooperate, but the government may not want him since, as the founder and CEO of FTX, he is at the helm of the fraud scheme he alleged.
Paul Weiss, Pinkman Fried’s senior defense attorney, resigned two weeks ago saying he could not represent the loquacious defendant, saying his “constant, annoying tweets” made the job impossible.
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