Next steps unclear, but decision paves way for him to return to U.S. imminently.
Sam Bankman-Fried has consented to be extradited to the United States where he faces fraud charges, according to an affidavit his lawyer read on Wednesday at a court hearing in The Bahamas.
It paves the way for the founder of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange to be flown to the United States as early as Wednesday afternoon. Bankman-Fried was committed to custody to await the move.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan last week charged the 30-year-old cryptocurrency mogul with stealing billions of dollars in FTX customer assets to plug losses at his hedge fund, Alameda Research, in what U.S. Attorney Damian Williams called “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.”
Williams’ office said it will hold a news conference later on Wednesday.
Arrested last week
Bankman-Fried was arrested on a U.S. extradition request last week in The Bahamas, where he lives and where FTX is based. He initially said he would contest extradition, but Reuters and other outlets reported over the weekend that he would reverse that decision.
Bankman-Fried decided to agree to extradition in part out of a “desire to make the relevant customers whole,” and recoup as much money as possible for investors and customers, according to the affidavit, which is dated Dec. 20.
Dressed in a suit, Bankman-Fried stepped up to the witness box in court, where he spoke clearly and steadily as he was sworn in.
“Yes, I do wish to waive my right to such formal extradition proceedings,” he told judge Shaka Serville.
FTX founder charged with multiple financial crimes
The U.S. government has charged Samuel Bankman-Fried, the founder of now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange FTX, with a host of financial crimes after being arrested in the Bahamas. He faces decades in prison if convicted.
Bankman-Fried’s defense lawyer said his client had eaten, was in good health and was “anxious to leave.”
The judge said he was satisfied that all legal requirements for extradition had been met and that Bankman-Fried had not been “forced, coerced or threatened” into making the decision.
“I therefore formally commit you to custody while you await your extradition,” Serville said.
The hearing was adjourned after the statements.
Officials with the FBI and the United States Marshals Service — which handles transportation of individuals in U.S. custody — have arrived in capital Nassau, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday morning.
It was not immediately clear when Bankman-Fried would depart the Caribbean nation for New York.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer requested that the “rule of speciality” be followed. This rule, which is in The Bahamas’ extradition treaty with the United States, says a person can be tried only on the charges for which they are extradited.
Bankman-Fried’s U.S.-based defence lawyer, Mark Cohen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Bankman-Fried has acknowledged risk-management failures at FTX, but has said he does not believe he has criminal liability.
Bankman-Fried rode a crypto boom to become a billionaire several times over and an influential U.S. political donor, before FTX’s crash wiped out his wealth and tarnished his reputation. The collapse was driven by a wave of customer withdrawals amid concerns over commingling of funds with Alameda.
The $32 billion exchange declared bankruptcy on Nov. 11, and Bankman-Fried stepped down as CEO the same day.
He has since been detained at The Bahamas Department of Corrections in Nassau, known as Fox Hill prison. The U.S. State Department in a 2021 report described conditions at the facility as “harsh,” citing overcrowding, rodent infestation and prisoners relying on buckets as toilets.
Local authorities say conditions have since improved.
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