Exclusive: Sam Bankman-Fried to reverse decision on contesting extradition
Dec 17 (Reuters) - Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried is expected to appear in court in the Bahamas on Monday to reverse his decision to contest extradition to the United States, where he faces fraud charges, a person familiar with the matter said on Saturday.
The 30-year-old cryptocurrency mogul was indicted in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday and accused of engaging in a scheme to defraud FTX customers by using billions of dollars in stolen deposits to pay for expenses and debts and to make investments for his crypto hedge fund, Alameda Research LLC.
His decision to consent to extradition would pave the way for him to appear in U.S. court to face wire fraud, money laundering and campaign finance charges.
Upon arrival in the United States, Bankman-Fried would likely be held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, though some federal defendants are being held at jails just outside New York City due to overcrowding at the facility, said defense lawyer Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma.
At his initial court hearing in Manhattan, Bankman-Fried would be asked to enter a plea and a judge would make a determination on bail, Margulis-Ohnuma said. The attorney added that such a hearing must take place within 48 hours of Bankman-Fried's arrival in the United States, though it would likely be sooner.
Prosecutors will likely argue that Bankman-Fried is a flight risk and should remain in custody because of the large sums of money involved in the case and the unclear location of those funds.
"The missing money gives prosecutors strong arguments that he is a flight risk," said former federal prosecutor and white-collar defense attorney Michael Weinstein. "I expect that if a judge grants pretrial release, they would impose very restrictive and onerous conditions."
Any trial is likely more than a year away, legal experts told Reuters.
A spokesman for Bankman-Fried declined to comment. Bankman-Fried has acknowledged risk management failings at FTX but has said he does not believe he has criminal liability.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan declined to comment.
'BIGGEST FINANCIAL FRAUDS IN AMERICAN HISTORY'
It was not immediately clear what prompted Bankman-Fried to change his mind and decide not to contest extradition.
He was remanded on Tuesday to the Bahamas' Fox Hill prison after Chief Magistrate JoyAnn Ferguson-Pratt rejected his request to remain at home while awaiting a hearing on his extradition.
The U.S. State Department in a 2021 report said conditions at Fox Hill were "harsh," citing overcrowding, rodent infestation and prisoners relying on buckets as toilets. Authorities there say conditions have since improved.
Bankman-Fried amassed a fortune valued at over $20 billion as he rode a cryptocurrency boom to build FTX into one of the world's largest exchanges. His arrest last Monday in the Bahamas, where he lives and where FTX is based, came just a month after the exchange collapsed amid a flurry of customer withdrawals.
Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, described the collapse of FTX as one of the "biggest financial frauds in American history." He has described the office's investigation as ongoing, and urged people with knowledge of wrongdoing at FTX or Alameda to cooperate.
One top executive at FTX, Ryan Salame, told securities regulators in the Bahamas on Nov. 9 that assets belonging to the exchange's customers were transferred to Alameda to cover the hedge fund's losses, according to a document made public as part of FTX's bankruptcy proceedings in Delaware.
FTX filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11, the same day Bankman-Fried stepped down as CEO.
A lawyer for Salame did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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