NASSAU — 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.
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,” 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.
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.
TIMING OF DEPARTURE UNCLEAR
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 defense 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.
(Reporting by Jared Higgs, Jack Queen, Marco Bello and Maria Alejandra Cardona in Nassau, and by Jasper Ward in Washington Additional reporting and writing by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Amy Stevens, Noeleen Walder, Megan Davies, Matthew Lewis, Nick Zieminski and Anna Driver)
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