FTX founder Bankman-Fried leaves court in Bahamas after consenting to extradition | Inquirer Business

FTX founder Bankman-Fried leaves court in Bahamas after consenting to extradition

/ 06:38 AM December 22, 2022
Sam Bankman-Fried leaves a courthouse in The Bahamas after agreeing to be extradited to the US.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and former CEO of crypto currency exchange FTX, is escorted out of the Magistrate Court building in Nassau, Bahamas, on December 21, 2022. REUTERS/Marco Bello

NASSAU — Sam Bankman-Fried left a courthouse in The Bahamas on Wednesday after agreeing to be extradited, paving the way for the founder of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange to be flown to the United States to face fraud charges.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan last week charged the 30-year-old cryptocurrency mogul with stealing billions of dollars in FTX customer assets to plug losses at his hedge fund, Alameda Research, in what U.S. Attorney Damian Williams called “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.”

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Bankman-Fried left the courthouse, surrounded by guards with assault weapons, and entered a vehicle, according to Reuters Video.

It was not immediately clear when Bankman-Fried would depart the Caribbean nation for New York.

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Williams’ office had said it would hold a news conference later on Wednesday.

Bankman-Fried was arrested on a U.S. extradition request last week in The Bahamas, where he lives and where FTX is based. He initially said he would contest extradition, but Reuters and other outlets reported over the weekend that he would reverse that decision.

READ: Crypto tycoon Bankman-Fried could be extradited Wednesday – source

Bankman-Fried decided to agree to extradition in part out of a “desire to make the relevant customers whole,” according to an affidavit read in court on Wednesday and dated Dec 20.

Dressed in a suit, Bankman-Fried stepped up to the witness box in court, where he spoke clearly and steadily as he was sworn in.

“Yes, I do wish to waive my right to such formal extradition proceedings,” he told Judge Shaka Serville.

Bankman-Fried’s defense lawyer said his client had eaten, was in good health, and was “anxious to leave.”

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READ: FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried charged with fraud, denied bail

The judge said he was satisfied that all legal requirements for extradition had been met and that Bankman-Fried had not been “forced, coerced or threatened” into making the decision.

“I therefore formally commit you to custody while you await your extradition,” Serville said.

The hearing was adjourned after the statements.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer requested that the “rule of speciality” be followed. This rule, which is in The Bahamas’ extradition treaty with the United States, says a person can be tried only on the charges for which they are extradited.

Bankman-Fried’s U.S.-based defense lawyer, Mark Cohen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Bankman-Fried has acknowledged risk-management failures at FTX, but has said he does not believe he has criminal liability.

READ: Sam Bankman-Fried’s sudden turn from white knight to detainee

Bankman-Fried rode a crypto boom to become a billionaire several times over and an influential U.S. political donor, before FTX’s crash wiped out his wealth and tarnished his reputation. The collapse was driven by a wave of customer withdrawals amid concerns over commingling of funds with Alameda.

The $32 billion exchange declared bankruptcy on November 11, and Bankman-Fried stepped down as CEO the same day.

He has since been detained at The Bahamas Department of Corrections in Nassau, known as Fox Hill prison. The U.S. State Department in a 2021 report described conditions at the facility as “harsh,” citing overcrowding, rodent infestation, and prisoners relying on buckets as toilets.

Local authorities say conditions have since improved.

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