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FTX“s Bankman-Fried to plead not guilty to campaign finance, China bribery charges

2023-03-30T10:02:42Z

Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried, who faces fraud charges over the collapse of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, departs from a court hearing at Manhattan federal court in New York City, U.S. January 3, 2023. REUTERS/David Dee Delgado/File Photo

Indicted FTX cryptocurrency exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried is expected to plead not guilty on Thursday to new U.S. criminal charges, which include conspiring to violate campaign finance laws and bribe Chinese authorities.

Bankman-Fried, 31, had earlier pleaded not guilty to eight counts of fraud and conspiracy for allegedly stealing billions in FTX customer funds to plug losses at his hedge fund, Alameda Research. A person familiar with the matter told Reuters he also plans to plead not guilty to the new 13-count indictment.

The new charges add to the pressure on Bankman-Fried, who faces a possible sentence of decades in prison if convicted at a trial set to start on Oct. 2.

He was arrested in December, after a flurry of customer withdrawals spurred by concerns about commingling of funds between the exchange and Alameda prompted the collapse of now-bankrupt FTX.

The initial indictment by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan contained few details about the alleged scheme. In an unusual post-arrest blog post, the former billionaire acknowledged inadequate risk management at FTX, but said he did not steal funds.

Prosecutors in late February filed a new 12-count indictment elaborating on the fraud charges and accusing Bankman-Fried of illicitly contributing tens of millions of dollars to U.S. political campaigns through straw donors, part of a strategy to buy influence in Washington.

And on Tuesday, prosecutors moved to unseal yet another indictment, which accused Bankman-Fried of conspiring to violate an anti-bribery law by orchestrating a $40 million payment to Chinese authorities to regain access to $1 billion in cryptocurrency in Alameda accounts that had been frozen.

Three former members of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle – former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison, former FTX technology chief Zixao “Gary” Wang, and former FTX engineering director Nishad Singh – have all pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Bankman-Fried is confined to his parents’ Palo Alto, California, home on $250 million bond pending trial. Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan approved modifications to Bankman-Fried’s bail package that are designed to prevent the defendant from tampering with witnesses.

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