Ex-FTX boss released on $250 million bail
A New York federal judge agreed on Thursday to release the founder and former boss of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange platform, the American Sam Bankman-Fried, on a monster bail of 250 million dollars (about $ 341 million THAT).
The most famous figure in the cryptocurrency world walked free from federal court in Manhattan around 2:00 p.m.
Charged in particular with fraud and criminal association, “SBF” – his nickname – had been extradited Wednesday evening from the Bahamas, where the headquarters of FTX was located, after having given up contesting his surrender to the American authorities.
The huge bail is partly guaranteed by the Californian house of the parents of Sam-Bankman Fried, where he will be under house arrest pending his trial, according to the conditions approved by Judge Gabriel Gorenstein.
At the end of November, the central figure in the biggest scandal in the history of cryptocurrency claimed to have only $100,000 (around CA$136,000) left. At its peak, at the start of the year, his fortune was estimated at $26 billion (around C$35 billion), entirely based on the shares of his companies, which have since gone bankrupt.
The magistrate authorized the release of the 30-year-old defendant because, according to him, he presents a « minimal » flight risk and has never been convicted before. Known for his dark t-shirts and shorts, « SBF » showed up to the hearing in a gray suit and tie.
Sam Bankman-Fried is suspected of having used, with collaborators, funds deposited on the platform by FTX clients to carry out speculative financial transactions with his other company, Alameda Research.
In addition to risky transactions via Alameda, he is also suspected of having invested part of this money in real estate in the Bahamas and of having made donations to Democratic politicians – always with funds from FTX clients – including Joe Biden during his presidential campaign.
Five of the eight charges against him each provide for a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.
The one who has long been seen as an iconoclastic genius of cryptocurrencies is therefore likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.
The Manhattan federal prosecutor revealed Wednesday that two other key figures in the case had recently been charged with fraud and criminal association. The latter have pleaded guilty and are collaborating with the government, which means that they could incriminate Sam Bankman-Fried.
They are Caroline Ellison, former boss of the company Alameda Research, and Gary Wang, co-founder of FTX, charged “in connection with their role in the fraud which contributed to the collapse of FTX”, declared Damian Williams, without giving more details.
Since the bankruptcy of FTX on November 11, Sam Bankman-Fried has repeatedly argued publicly that he had not been at the helm of Alameda Research for several months, indirectly incriminating Caroline Ellison.
An argument disputed by the public prosecutor, who claims that « SBF » remained the main decision-maker within Alameda until FTX filed for bankruptcy.
“If you have been involved in any offenses at FTX or Alameda, now is the time to come forward,” Damian Williams warned Wednesday, encouraging other alumni of both companies to work with the prosecution. “We are moving quickly and our patience is not eternal. »
Caroline Ellison and Gary Wang have also been summoned to civil justice by the two main American financial market regulators, the SEC and the CFTC.
They pledged to cooperate with the SEC, and acknowledged the facts attributed to them by the CFTC, which should earn them, in both cases, a more lenient judgment.
The CFTC estimates total funds misappropriated from FTX client accounts at $8 billion (approximately C$11 billion).
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