FTX's Sam Bankman-Fried charged with bribing Chinese officials in new indictment

He is accused of authorising payment of $40m to one or more Chinese government officials to get them to unfreeze accounts at Alameda Research

With the latest charge of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, former FTX chief Sam Bankman-Fried now faces 13 criminal counts. AFP
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Sam Bankman-Fried was charged with bribing Chinese officials, adding a new dimension to the US government’s case against the FTX co-founder.

The new charge was unsealed on Tuesday in a revised indictment by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Mr Bankman-Fried is accused of authorising the payment of $40 million to one or more Chinese government officials to get them to unfreeze accounts at Alameda Research, a Hong Kong-based trading firm affiliated with FTX, holding more than $1 billion in cryptocurrency.

Prosecutors allege Mr Bankman-Fried and others sought to regain access to the assets held in Alameda accounts in 2021 to fund additional trading activity, according to the indictment.

A spokesman for Mr Bankman-Fried did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

With the charge of conspiracy to breach the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Mr Bankman-Fried now faces 13 criminal counts. He has already pleaded not guilty to several fraud charges for allegedly funnelling billions of dollars from now-bankrupt FTX to Alameda and for personal expenses.

Three of his close associates, Gary Wang, Caroline Ellison and Nishad Singh, have pleaded guilty to fraud and are co-operating with the government.

Mr Bankman-Fried is currently free on a $250 million bail package and is due to face trial in October. He was arrested in the Bahamas, where his cryptocurrency empire FTX was based, in December and extradited back to the US.

An earlier revised indictment unsealed in February beefed up campaign-finance related charges against Mr Bankman-Fried, a one-time major donor to Democratic political candidates.

Prosecutors claimed Mr Bankman-Fried conspired to influence US crypto regulation through donations by him and others at FTX.

According to the latest indictment, Chinese law enforcement authorities in 2021 froze Alameda trading accounts on two of the country’s largest crypto exchanges as part of a probe into a counter-party.

Mr Bankman-Fried and “others operating at his direction” tried to unfreeze the accounts, including by recruiting attorneys to lobby in China for the assets to be released and trying to transfer the crypto to fraudulent accounts set up on a Chinese exchange.

After months of failed attempts, prosecutors allege, Mr Bankman-Fried directed a bribe payment in the form of cryptocurrency to be transferred from Alameda’s main trading account to a private wallet. The accounts were subsequently unfrozen and Mr Bankman-Fried authorised the transfer of the remaining bribe.

Updated: March 28, 2023, 3:37 PM