Dec 13, 2022 - Economy

Sam Bankman-Fried charged with criminal fraud and money laundering

Illustration of a crypto block that gets covered in jail bars.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged FTX founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried with eight counts of fraud, conspiracy, campaign finance law violations and money laundering.

Driving the news: The disgraced crypto wunderkind was arrested Monday by police in the Bahamas and is expected to be extradited to the U.S.

  • This follows a civil complaint from the SEC, filed earlier Tuesday, accusing Bankman-Fried of defrauding FTX investors.
  • His attorney tells Axios, via an emailed statement: "Mr. Bankman-Fried is reviewing the charges with his legal team and considering all of his legal options."

Capitol Hill: Bankman-Fried had been scheduled to testify virtually at a House Financial Services Committee today, but now the only witness will be current FTX CEO and restructuring expert John Ray.

  • It would have been an irresistible chance for House members to grandstand, which is gone with SBF in custody. But it's still a bipartisan opportunity to go after SEC chair Gary Gensler, who wasn't invited to testify.
  • Gensler has told Congress that he has adequate tools to regulate cryptocurrencies, which is arguably belied by the SEC's own lawsuit.
  • Expect members to ask FTX CEO John Ray if he agrees with Gensler's assessment of the SEC's oversight, given that it took Ray just a few days to determine that FTX was a house of cards.

Timing: Already there are questions about why prosecutors preempted SBF from testifying under oath in Congress, ginning up new conspiracy theories from the same folks who said SBF's political donations would prevent him from being arrested in the first place.

  • A source familiar with the SDNY, who doesn't have insight into this specific case, says that there could have been exigent circumstances such as money movement or fears that SBF was about to flee to a jurisdiction where the U.S. doesn't have an extradition treaty.
  • It's also possible there were concerns that SBF testifying on Capitol Hill would further pollute the jury pool, or that the indictment was actually returned days (or weeks) ago but it took time for Bahamas police to act.

Read the criminal complaint:

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