Disgraced cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried has agreed to extradition to the United States, one of his lawyers said Monday after a chaotic morning of legal maneuvers in which Mr. Bankman Fried was shuffled between court and jail in the Bahamas.
Jerone Roberts, a local defense attorney for Mr. Bankman-Fried, told reporters his client voluntarily agreed to extradition and defied “the strictest legal advice.”
“We as attorneys will prepare the necessary documents to start the court,” said Mr. Roberts. “Mr. Bankman-Fried wants to put customers right, and that’s what prompted his decision.”
Following his arrest in the Bahamas last week, Mr. Bankman-Fried initially indicated he would contest his extradition. But he has changed his mind, a person briefed on the matter said over the weekend, and is ready to return to the United States to face criminal charges.
On Monday, Mr. Bankman-Fried appeared at a Nassau Magistrates Court hearing arranged for him to tell authorities he would not contest the extradition after all. But the hearing descended into chaos: Mr Roberts said he was “shocked” to see his client in court and asked for at least a 45-minute break to talk privately with Mr Bankman Fried.
Mr. Roberts then said Mr. Bankman-Fried wanted to read the federal prosecutor’s indictment before making an extradition decision.
A Bahamian prosecutor rebuked Mr. Bankman-Fried’s attorney for not agreeing to proceed with the hearing, and the judge presiding over the matter ordered the crypto entrepreneur returned to Fox Hill Jail in Nassau .
The confusion inside and outside the courtroom was the latest twist in the criminal case that resulted from the sudden implosion of FTX, once one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. Bahamas-based FTX filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11. Within a month, federal prosecutors had criminal complaints against Mr. Bankman-Fried, who also faces civil fraud charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Mr. Roberts said his legal team is preparing documents so that “a time and date could be set for the continuation and completion of extradition proceedings.”
What you should know about the FTX collapse
What is FTX? FTX is a now bankrupt company that was one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. It allowed customers to exchange digital currencies for other digital currencies or traditional money; It also had a native cryptocurrency called FTT. The Bahamas-based company built its business on risky trading options that are not legal in the United States.
Mark Cohen, an attorney in New York hired to represent Mr. Bankman-Fried’s federal prosecutor, was not present in the Bahamas courtroom Monday and did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Bankman-Fried, 30, has been in custody in the Bahamas since December. 12 when he was arrested at his luxury apartment complex. Last week, federal prosecutors announced that a grand jury had indicted him on eight counts of wire fraud, securities fraud, money laundering and campaign finance violations.
He is accused of using billions of dollars in customer deposits to fund a cryptocurrency trading firm he controls, making lavish real estate purchases, investing in other companies and donating funds to politicians. Federal prosecutors and US regulators allege he orchestrated a year-long scheme to defraud customers, investors and lenders.
Upon his return to the United States, Mr. Bankman-Fried will face arraignment in Federal District Court in Manhattan. He is likely to be held on bail pending a hearing at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York.
At a bail hearing in the Bahamas last week, Mr. Bankman-Fried said he would not waive his right to contest extradition. After being refused bail, he was transferred from a police cell to the Caribbean island nation’s notorious Fox Hill prison, which has been widely criticized for its poor living conditions – so much so that locals nickname it “Fox Hell”.
He was expected to revise his position on extradition when he appeared before Magistrates Court on Monday morning in a navy blue suit and white shirt with unbuttoned cuffs. He was slumped in his seat, head down, leg shaking.
The proceedings were soon in turmoil.
“Whatever lead led him here this morning, it didn’t involve me,” Mr Roberts told the judge outside a crowded courtroom. He said Mr. Bankman-Fried’s court appearance was “premature” and without his involvement. The hearing was adjourned so that Mr. Roberts could speak privately with Mr. Bankman Fried.
The aftermath of FTX’s demise
The sudden collapse of the crypto exchange has left the industry stunned.
When the hearing resumed, the confusion continued. Mr. Roberts said Mr. Bankman-Fried wanted to make an extradition decision but needed “a little more information”. He also said Mr. Bankman-Fried needed time to speak to his attorneys in the US.
Lead prosecutor Franklyn Williams accused Mr. Roberts of wasting the court’s time, and the magistrate ordered Mr. Bankman-Fried returned to jail, where he had been held in a medical ward with five other inmates. “I definitely think it’s a wasted day,” said judge Shaka Serville.
In the afternoon, however, Mr. Robert changed course. He told a group of reporters assembled in Nassau that Mr. Bankman-Fried had agreed to voluntary extradition. He said the next step would be for Mr Bankman-Fried to appear again in Magistrates Court.
“Throughout my working relationship with Sam, he has expressed an overwhelming desire to make customers right and customers healthy,” said Mr. Roberts.
Mr. Roberts’ testimony capped a bizarre morning of legal drama. A few people had turned up outside the courthouse in the Bahamas, including those who said they had invested in cryptocurrency and made deals with FTX to vent their anger at Mr. Bankman Fried.
One of them was Erin Gambrel, who flew to Nassau from Dallas to attend the hearing. She said she shared an office with FTX in the Bahamas earlier this year, where she met Mr. Bankman Fried.
Woman. Gambrel said he wanted to see him “go away for a long time.” She has not invested in FTX but some of her friends have.
“He ruined millions of lives,” she said. “He caused friends of mine to lose their life savings.”
Against Mr. Bankman-Fried in the United States.