The latest news regarding crypto exchange FTX includes Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of the cryptocurrency exchange, who is not doing himself any favors with his statements.
In addition, it seems that FTX Japan has allowed total withdrawal of funds and users have rejoiced at this “escape,” let’s see why.
Sam Bankman-Fried: all the latest crypto news on the founder of FTX
Despite being accused of orchestrating one of the largest financial frauds in history and facing the prospect of spending life in prison, SBF has been tweeting and giving interviews to the media, all in an effort to defend himself in the court of public opinion.
It is an unusual strategy for a high-profile criminal defendant who oversaw the crypto company FTX, which lost billions of dollars belonging to customers.
Indeed, it has stunned lawyers not involved in the case, since every Bankman-Fried quote and tweet is effectively a gift to prosecutors, who can use that material to build their case against him.
Rebecca Mermelstein, partner at the O’Melveny law firm, said:
“I think any white-collar lawyer you could ask would say, ‘Shut up: keep your mouth shut and let us talk.”
Moreover, through a spokesman, Bankman-Fried declined NPR‘s request for an interview. The trail of communications, including eight tweets, a Substack newsletter and a handful of lengthy media interviews, that Bankman-Fried left behind is already coming back to haunt him.
For example, a few weeks before Bankman-Fried’s arrest, crypto vlogger Tiffany Fong interviewed him by phone and the conversation turned to Bankman-Fried’s campaign contributions.
He reportedly donated about $40 million during the 2022 midterms. During that interview, Bankman-Fried admitted to Fong that he directed money to candidates in a way that was difficult to trace:
“All my Republican donations were obscure. And the reason was not for regulatory reasons. It’s because reporters freak out if you donate to a Republican. They are all super liberal and I didn’t want to argue. So, I did all those dark Republicans.”
SBF and the evidence of illegal political contributions: what does it mean?
Those comments to Fong turned out to be imprudent. In fact, Bankman-Fried was later charged with eight criminal counts, including wire fraud and conspiracy to make illegal political contributions.
So on Thursday, when federal prosecutors unveiled four additional criminal charges against Bankman-Fried, they included new details about the expansion of their case against him.
In the latest indictment, prosecutors specifically cited comments from that interview as part of their additional evidence for their charge of “illegal political contributions.”
In any case, that may not be all. Lawyers warn that prosecutors could use more comments he made during his trial, which is scheduled to begin in October.
In any case, it’s not just the interviews that have Bankman-Fried in trouble. The founder of crypto exchange FTX has also contacted current FTX employees, and that could lead to further consequences.
Prosecutors say Bankman-Fried used an encrypted messaging app on 15 January to contact the general counsel of FTX’s US subsidiary, writing the following:
“I’d really like to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least check things out with each other. I would like to make a phone call sometime and chat.”
After that message came to light, the judge overseeing the trial imposed new restrictions on Bankman-Fried’s bail, prohibiting him from sending encrypted messages and others that disappear after being read, and barred Bankman-Fried from contacting current and former FTX employees.
FTX Japan allows full withdrawal of crypto funds
While FTX customers around the world wait patiently for a conclusion to the FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried dispute, FTX Japan users have begun withdrawing all their funds.
To the delight of some investors, FTX Japan resumed withdrawals on 21 February, which resulted in the transfer of funds from the defunct exchange to a Liquid Japan account.
Days later, a famous Japanese cryptocurrency trader, Hibiki Trader, confirmed that he had successfully withdrawn all his funds.
The day after fund withdrawals resumed, FTX Japan revealed that users had withdrawn about 6.6 billion yen ($50 million). While one community member responded by saying, “congratulations on your escape!”
Many have yet to see a total redemption of their funds. The redemption process is expected to be delayed due to the huge number of users affected by the collapse of the FTX crypto exchange.
Several community members have confirmed that all their money has been paid out. However, FTX investors watching from the rest of the world remain hopeful of a similar outcome.
Following the charges against SBF, a federal judge ordered the opening of a superseding indictment containing 12 criminal counts. US Attorney Damian Williams charged Bankman-Fried with eight counts of conspiracy related to fraud and four counts of wire and securities fraud.
As anticipated, SBF’s criminal trial is scheduled to begin in October, while FTX’s bankruptcy proceedings are ongoing.
Some observations regarding SBF and the FTX crypto exchange
Although Bankman-Fried has made no public comments since 19 January, lawyers who have dealt with prominent white-collar defendants warn that it can be a challenge to keep them quiet for long, especially if they are used to living in the spotlight.
This is a potential problem for Bankman-Fried, who had relationships with people like former President Clinton and former quarterback Tom Brady at the height of his popularity.
In his public statements, the former FTX CEO tried to defend himself by saying that he did not intend to cause losses to FTX’s clients and by claiming, most importantly, that he was not a villain.
For example, a few days before Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas, ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos asked him if he thought it was fair for people to compare him to Bernie Madoff, one of the world’s most infamous fraudsters. Bankman-Fried replied:
“I don’t think that’s who they are at all. But I understand why they say that. People have lost money, they have lost a lot of money.”