FTX founder arrested in Caribbean
The founder and CEO of the ill-fated cryptocurrency exchange FTX, Samuel Bankman-Fried, has been arrested in the Bahamas at the request of US authorities. He now awaits criminal charges, weeks after his multi-billion-dollar company went bankrupt.
The government of the Bahamas issued a statement on Monday night announcing the arrest, noting that the move “followed receipt of formal notification from the United States that it has filed criminal charges against [Bankman-Fried] and is likely to request his extradition.”
The US Justice Department later confirmed that the disgraced CEO was in custody, with US attorney Damian Williams saying the arrest was “based on a sealed indictment filed by the [Southern District of New York].” He added that the indictment would be unsealed sometime on Tuesday.
A source familiar with the matter told the New York Times that the charges against Bankman-Fried include money laundering, wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, securities fraud, and securities fraud conspiracy, and noted that he currently is the only FTX executive facing indictment.
Prosecutors have reportedly examined whether the crypto exchange broke any laws by transferring money to a separate hedge fund operated and owned by Bankman-Fried before FTX went belly-up in November. Regulators have also looked into how the Bahamas-based exchange ended up with an $8 billion gap on its balance sheet, and whether FTX lent money to the hedge fund, Alameda Research, for risky trades.
Bankman-Fried’s arrest comes less than 24 hours ahead of a House Financial Services Committee hearing he planned to attend virtually on Tuesday, where he was meant to testify about FTX’s downfall. California Democrat Maxine Waters, who oversees the committee, said she was “surprised” that he was in custody, and expressed disappointment that lawmakers would not hear his testimony.
The FTX founder has denied any suggestions that he defrauded his customers before his company collapsed, instead maintaining that he “screwed up” while managing the large crypto exchange, which was among the world’s largest at its peak. “I made a lot of mistakes. There are things I would give anything to be able to do over again,” he told an audience at an event hosted by the New York Times last month.
Nonetheless, Bankman-Fried now likely faces extradition and a significant legal battle in the US, where the Securities and Exchange Commission has also announced a separate round of charges linked to “violations of securities laws.” The agency said that an indictment would be officially filed on Tuesday.