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FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Attempted to Bribe Chinese Government Officials, Prosecutors Claim

A new indictment from the DOJ concerns the unfreezing of $1 billion of digital assets.

Sam Bankman-Fried Gotham/GC Images

FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried is facing yet another criminal charge, with federal prosecutors accusing him of bribing one or more Chinese government officials with $40 million. The new indictment, the 13th against him, was unsealed on Tuesday by the Southern District Court of New York.

According to the indictment, Bankman-Fried “directed and caused the transfer of at least $40 million in cryptocurrency” in an attempt to have Chinese officials unfreeze accounts belonging to his hedge fund, Alameda Research, per CNN. The accounts had been frozen by the Chinese government during a crackdown on cryptocurrencies in November 2021, and prosecutors claim that the frozen accounts held more than $1 billion of digital assets.

UNITED STATES -December 13: Damian Williams, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announces the indictment of Samuel Bankman-Fried, founder of the now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange, in connection to an alleged wide-ranging scheme by the defendant to misappropriate billions of dollars of customer funds deposited with FTX and to distribute tens of millions of dollars of illegal campaign contributions during a press conference Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022 in Manhattan, New York.  (Photo by Barry Williams for NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Damian Williams, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announces the indictment of Samuel Bankman-Fried on December 13 Barry Williams for NY Daily News via Getty Images

The indictment further alleges that these accounts were released after the $40 million payment was transferred from Alameda to a private cryptocurrency wallet, suggesting that the transaction was successful, and that Bankman-Fried then went on to use those unfrozen assets to continue to fund Alameda until FTX was forced to declare bankruptcy in November 2022.

Bankman-Fried has already pleaded not guilty to eight counts of fraud and conspiracy and has yet to be arraigned on five others. He is currently out on a $250 million bond under house arrest at his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California. Prosecutors are calling Bankman-Fried’s actions one of the largest financial frauds in U.S. history, claiming that he orchestrated a system of stealing deposits from cryptocurrency exchange FTX to finance risky Alameda bets as well as a lavish lifestyle.

Bankman-Fried has previously denied having committed any fraud, though several of his former business partners have pleaded guilty to multiple charges. If convicted on all counts, CNN says Bankman-Fried could be sentenced to more than 155 years in prison. The FTX co-founder’s trial is scheduled for October.

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