The cryptocurrency industry has been in the spotlight for years, often facing scrutiny for various reasons. The latest controversy involves Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX, a now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange. Bankman-Fried has been charged with conspiring to pay a $40 million bribe to Chinese government officials.
FTX was a cryptocurrency exchange founded by Bankman-Fried in 2019. It quickly gained popularity due to its innovative trading products and low fees. However, in November 2021, FTX collapsed, leading to a loss of billions of dollars in customer funds. Since then, Bankman-Fried has faced multiple charges, including stealing customer funds to cover losses at his Alameda Research hedge fund and orchestrating an illegal campaign donation scheme.
The New Bribery Conspiracy Charge
On Tuesday, U.S. prosecutors unveiled a new indictment against Bankman-Fried, accusing him of conspiring to pay a $40 million bribe to Chinese officials. According to the indictment, Bankman-Fried ordered the cryptocurrency payment from Alameda’s main trading account to a private wallet. The payment was intended to persuade Chinese authorities to unfreeze Alameda accounts with over $1 billion of cryptocurrency. The accounts had been frozen as part of an investigation into an unnamed Alameda counterparty. The indictment also states that Bankman-Fried authorized the transfer of tens of millions of dollars of cryptocurrency to “complete” the bribe.
The Chinese foreign ministry has not yet commented on the issue. The Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for Bankman-Fried declined to comment on the new indictment. However, Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to eight of the 13 charges he faces. He has also acknowledged inadequate risk management at FTX but has denied stealing money.
Bankman-Fried is expected to be arraigned on Thursday in Manhattan federal court. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan will consider modifications to his $250 million bail package. Bankman-Fried is confined to his parents’ Palo Alto, California home ahead of his scheduled Oct. 2 trial. On Monday, his lawyers and prosecutors reached a new agreement on revised bail conditions. Under the new conditions, Bankman-Fried would be barred from using electronics except for a phone with no internet capability and a basic laptop with limited functions.
The new bribery conspiracy charge adds more pressure on Bankman-Fried, who is already facing multiple charges related to FTX’s collapse. The cryptocurrency industry continues to face scrutiny due to its unregulated nature, and this latest controversy involving one of the industry’s most prominent figures will only add to the negative perception.