US charges FTX founder with bribing Chinese officials
FTX crypto exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried is expected to be arraigned on the new indictment on Thursday, where he will likely plead not guilty
US prosecutors on Tuesday unveiled a new indictment against Sam Bankman-Fried, accusing the founder of now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX of paying $40 million (€37 million) in bribes to Chinese officials so they would unfreeze his hedge fund's accounts.
The charge of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act raises to 13 the number of charges Bankman-Fried faces after he was arrested in the Bahamas in December over the collapse of FTX. He was brought to the United States soon after his arrest.
Bankman-Fried is expected to be arraigned on the new charge on Thursday in Manhattan federal court. He plans to plead not guilty, Reuters news agency reported, based on information from a person familiar with the matter.
What did prosecutors say?
The new indictment said Bankman-Fried ordered the $40 million cryptocurrency payment to a private wallet from Alameda's main trading account, to persuade Chinese government authorities to unfreeze Alameda accounts with more than $1 billion of cryptocurrency.
Prosecutors said the Alameda accounts had been frozen as part of an investigation into an unnamed Alameda counterparty, and Bankman-Fried's prior efforts to lobby Chinese officials to lift the freeze were unsuccessful.
They also said Bankman-Fried around November 2021 authorized a transfer of tens of millions of dollars of additional cryptocurrency to "complete" the bribe.
Prosecutors had previously accused Bankman-Fried of stealing billions of dollars in customer funds to plug losses at his Alameda Research hedge fund, and orchestrating an illegal campaign donation scheme to buy influence in Washington, DC.
Crackdown on cryptoindustry
FTX filed for bankruptcy on November 11, when it ran out of money after the equivalent of a bank run on the global cryptocurrency exchange.
Bankman-Fried has remained free on a $250 million personal recognizance bond that lets him stay with his parents in Palo Alto, California.
He has pleaded not guilty to eight of the 13 counts he faces, and not yet been arraigned on the campaign finance or bribery conspiracy charges.
Bankman-Fried's case is part of an escalating crackdown on alleged abuses at digital asset exchanges by US prosecutors and regulators, following last year's plunge in the values of Bitcoin and other tokens as central banks raised interest rates.