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Semafor LogoLouise Matsakis and Reed Albergotti
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Sam Bankman-Fried arrested in the Bahamas

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Sam Bankman-Fried
Handout via Reuters

Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, has been arrested in the Bahamas, authorities from the country announced Monday.

Attorney General Ryan Pinder KC said that the Bahamas had received notification from the United States government that it has filed charges against Bankman-Fried and is “likely to request his extradition.”

Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, confirmed in a statement that Bankman-Fried had been arrested at the request of the U.S. government based on a sealed indictment. “We expect to move to unseal the indictment and will have more to say at that time,” Williams said.

Bankman-Fried is being detained in a local police station, according to a person familiar with the matter, where he is expected to spend the night. His legal team is enroute to the Bahamas and plans to argue for bail tomorrow morning.

One person familiar with Bankman-Fried’s legal team said he may not choose to fight extradition to the U.S. His decision could depend on the terms of the extradition and whether they are favorable, the person said.

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It’s unclear why authorities had Bankman-Fried detained the day before he was set to testify under oath during a hearing at the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. His testimony might have been fodder for the criminal case against him.

The person familiar with the matter said prosecutors for the Southern District of New York and from the U.S. Department of Justice were both seeking to file charges, which could explain the timing of the process. The DOJ and SDNY did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Bankman-Fried is an investor in Semafor.

One question, now that the indictment has been filed, is whether prosecutors have cooperating witnesses with inside knowledge about what happened at FTX or its sister company, Alameda Research.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Monday it was also getting ready to file separate civil charges against Bankman-Fried.

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Dozens of regulators around the world have been scrutinizing Bankman-Fried and FTX since the exchange collapsed last month, after a bank-like run revealed there was a roughly $8 billion hole in its finances. On November 11, FTX filed for bankruptcy and Bankman-Fried resigned from his position as CEO.

Authorities have been looking at whether FTX, which is headquartered in the Bahamas, may have broken the law by sending customers’ funds to Alameda, a crypto trading firm that Bankman-Fried started before FTX. Bankman-Fried has previously denied knowingly using money deposited by FTX customers in an improper way.

Title iconNotable
  • Early employees at Alameda Research raised concerns about Bankman-Fried’s ethics and business practices, Semafor previously reported. Many of them wound up leaving the company.
  • Some lawyers, including former federal prosecutor Ankush Khardori, predicted it would take time for the U.S. government to build its case against Bankman-Fried, but the Southern District of New York appears to have worked extremely quickly.
  • Since resigning from FTX, Bankman-Fried has participated in a number of media interviews. At a New York Times conference, he said that he had clearly “made a lot of mistakes,” but did not “ever try to commit fraud on anyone.”
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