Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried, who faces fraud charges over the collapse of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, arrives on the day of a hearing at Manhattan federal court in New York City, January 3, 2023.
David Dee Delgado | Reuters
FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried paid out tens of millions of dollars worth of bribes to at least one Chinese government official, federal prosecutors alleged in a new indictment Tuesday.
The federal government alleges that accounts belonging to Bankman-Fried’s hedge fund, Alameda Research, were the target of a freezing order from Chinese police “in or around” Nov. 2021. The indictment also alleges that Bankman-Fried and others “directed and caused the transfer” of at least $40 million in cryptocurrency “intended for the benefit of one or more Chinese government officials in order to influence and induce them” to unfreeze some of these accounts.
Bankman-Fried and his associates considered and tried “numerous methods” to unfreeze the accounts, which contained around $1 billion worth of cryptocurrency, prosecutors allege. Ultimately, after both legal and personal efforts failed, Bankman-Fried agreed and directed a multi-million dollar bribe to unlock the frozen accounts, prosecutors allege.
Bankman-Fried’s hedge fund used the unfrozen assets to continue to fund Alameda’s loss-generating trades, continuing on what the government says was a fraud upon customers and investors for another year. FTX and Alameda imploded in Nov. 2022 after concerns about their balance sheet turned into a veritable bank run. Bankman-Fried now faces a federal indictment and civil charges from both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
The charges indicate that new evidence has been obtained by the federal government about Bankman-Fried’s international dealings, and it comes one day after U.S. regulators slapped crypto exchange Binance with allegations of facilitating terrorist financing and violations of U.S. derivatives law.
Meanwhile, Bankman-Fried’s collapsed FTX remains mired in Delaware bankruptcy court proceedings.
CNBC reached out to a spokesperson for Bankman-Fried but did not immediately hear back.