Sam Bankman-Fried, the jailed founder of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, is expected to return to the US on Wednesday to face criminal charges after waiving his right to contest extradition from the Bahamas.
After several days of conflicting signals from Bankman-Fried’s American and Bahamian legal teams, the disgraced crypto king appeared in court in Nassau to inform a magistrate 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 extradition in part because of a “desire to heal the clients concerned.”
After the hearing, Bankman-Fried was to be transferred to US custody and returned to the US to face criminal fraud charges related to FTX’s dramatic collapse.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York charged Bankman-Fried, 30, with eight criminal chargesincluding fraud, conspiracy and money laundering offenses – including making illegal political donations.
In a series of sometimes incoherent 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 that allegedly received billions in client funds from FTX.
Federal prosecutors hinted strongly last week that some members of the FTX-Alameda team in the The Bahamas have become government witnesses. “This was not a case of mismanagement or poor oversight, but deliberate fraud, plain and simple,” U.S. Attorney Damien Williams said last week.
Williams said Bankman-Fried’s wrongdoing included “defrauding customers, investors, creditors and our campaign finance system.”
Bankman-Fried’s return to the US resolves what appears to be a conflict between his American and Bahamian legal teams. At a chaotic hearing in Nassau on Monday, Jeron Roberts, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer from the Bahamas, told a judge he did not know the reason for the proceedings.
After speaking with the two lawyers, Bankman-Fried agreed to extradition.
“He’s waiving extradition to curry favor with the government, whether it’s through a deal to save the government potentially spending years trying to extradite him, or he’s trying to cooperate,” said Jeffrey Lichtman, a defense attorney who has been involved in a number of high-profile criminal defense cases, including that of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
“If he waives extradition,” Lichtman added, “he will not be tried. This is not surprising in a case like this because he may have no defense. In a case where the fraud is clear and easy to prove, it may not go to court, so it is very likely that he will be looking for the best deal he can.
According to Lichtman, Bankman-Fried will likely try to cooperate, but the government may not want him to, given that as the founder and CEO of FTX, he spearheaded the alleged fraud scheme.
Bankman-Fried’s original defense attorney, Paul Weiss, resigned two weeks ago, saying he could not represent the loquacious defendant, saying his “incessant and destructive tweets” made the task impossible.
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