The founder of the now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange, Sam Bankman-Fried, has been charged by US prosecutors with conspiring to bribe Chinese government officials with $40 million worth of payments.
The payments were allegedly made to unfreeze accounts belonging to Bankman-Fried’s hedge fund, Alameda Research, which Chinese authorities had frozen. The accounts held over $1 billion of cryptocurrency.
The new indictment, unveiled by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, further implicates Bankman-Fried in the collapse of FTX. Prosecutors claim that Bankman-Fried stole billions of dollars in customer funds to cover losses at Alameda. This new development increases the pressure on Bankman-Fried, who had already pleaded not guilty to eight counts.
According to the new indictment, Bankman-Fried authorised a transfer of tens of millions of dollars of additional cryptocurrency to complete the bribe after the accounts were unfrozen. The charge accuses Bankman-Fried of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which makes it illegal for US citizens to bribe foreign government officials to win business.
This new development in the ongoing bribery case has revealed that Bankman-Fried was not content with just transferring the original bribe money, but also authorised a transfer of additional cryptocurrency to ensure the bribe was successful.
Bankman-Fried, the embattled CEO of collapsed trading firm FTX, has been denied bail and is currently confined to his parents’ Palo Alto, California home. He has not yet been arraigned on the new charges of stealing money, but has acknowledged inadequate risk management at FTX.
Prosecutors last month unveiled four new counts against Bankman-Fried, accusing him of orchestrating an illegal campaign donation scheme to buy influence in Washington, DC. A court hearing for Bankman-Fried has been scheduled for Thursday, after prosecutors asked for him to be arraigned on the new, 13-count indictment. Bankman-Fried’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Chinese foreign ministry could not be reached for comment.