© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Sam Bankman-Fried, who founded and led FTX until a liquidity crunch forced the cryptocurrency exchange to declare bankruptcy, is escorted out of the Magistrate Court building after his arrest, in Nassau, Bahamas December 13, 2022. REUTERS/Dant
By Jared Higgs, Jack Queen and Jasper Ward
NASSAU (Reuters) -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 this afternoon.
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 the judge.
His defense lawyer told the judge that his client was “anxious to leave.”
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.
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.”
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’s U.S.-based defense lawyer, Mark Cohen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan declined to comment on Wednesday.
Bankman-Fried has acknowledged risk-management failures at FTX, but has said he does not believe he has criminal liability.
Wednesday’s hearing will follow a confusing sequence of events this week that left the status of Bankman-Fried’s expected extradition unclear.
On Monday, following the news reports he had agreed to be extradited, Bankman-Fried arrived at the courthouse in a black van marked “Corrections” wearing a blue suit jacket and white shirt – a contrast to the casual attire he was known for while running FTX.
At the hearing, his local defense lawyer Jerone Roberts said he was not informed of the purpose of the proceeding. After a brief recess, Roberts said his client had seen an affidavit outlining the charges against him, but wanted access to the full U.S. indictment against him before consenting to extradition.
The proceedings were then adjourned. They had been expected to resume on Tuesday morning, but Bankman-Fried’s legal papers were not ready in time.
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.
Authore – Abhi bhardwaj