NEW YORK – FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried was charged with directing $40 million in bribes to one or more Chinese officials to unfreeze assets relating to his cryptocurrency business in a newly rewritten indictment unsealed Tuesday.
The charge of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act raises to 13 the number of charges Bankman-Fried faces after he was arrested in the Bahamas in December and brought to the United States soon afterward.
FTX filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11, when it ran out of money after the cryptocurrency equivalent of a bank run. He has remained free on a $250 million personal recognizance bond that lets him stay with his parents in Palo Alto, California.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges that he cheated investors out of billions of dollars before his business collapsed.
The alleged bribes stemmed from the operation of Alameda Research, which is affiliated with FTX, Bankman-Fried’s global cryptocurrency exchange.
The indictment said Chinese law enforcement authorities in early 2021 froze certain Alameda cryptocurrency trading accounts on two of China’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. The accounts, it said, contained about $1 billion in cryptocurrency.
Bankman-Fried understood that the accounts had been frozen by Chinese authorities as part of an ongoing probe of a particular Alameda trading counterparty, the indictment said.
After Bankman-Fried failed several attempts to unfreeze the accounts through the use of lawyers and lobbying, Bankman-Fried ultimately agreed to direct a multimillion-dollar bribe to try to unfreeze the accounts, the indictment said.
The bribe payment of cryptocurrency then worth about $40 million was moved from Alameda’s main trading account to a private cryptocurrency wallet in November 2021 and the frozen accounts were unfrozen at about the same time, the indictment said.
Meanwhile Tuesday, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers also sent Judge Lewis A. Kaplan a new to limit him to a laptop and a phone and block him from using any other cell phones, tablets, computers, video games or “smart” devices with internet access other than electronic devices owned by his lawyers that he might need to prepare for trial.
Kaplan set a Thursday hearing in the case.