FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Denied Bail in the Bahamas

Bankman-Fried was arrested Monday.

AccessTimeIconDec 13, 2022 at 9:56 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 13, 2022 at 11:56 p.m. UTC
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NASSAU, The Bahamas – FTX founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried will be remanded into custody after a Bahamas judge ruled he should be denied bail on Tuesday.

Magistrate Judge Joyann Ferguson-Pratt ordered that there be an extradition hearing next year, on Feb. 8, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. ET. Bankman-Fried's attorneys initally asked the judge to consider that he be released on a $250,000 bail, arguing he needed to be able to regularly take medication, including Zyrtec, an over-the-counter allergy medication, and keep to his vegan diet. Earlier in the day, police escorted Bankman-Fried's parents to his home in Albany in the Bahamas to pick up Adderall, another medication.

Bankman-Fried testified on Tuesday that he uses Emsam patches for depression, as well as 10 mg of Adderall every four hours.

Prosecutors in the Bahamas argued that granting Bankman-Fried bail would go against a treaty with the U.S., which required defendants to be held in custody pending extradition proceedings. Bankman-Fried told the judge he would not waive his right to fight the extradition effort, suggesting he may seek to remain in the Bahamas.

Bankman-Fried was arrested Monday evening after prosecutors in the U.S. alerted the Royal Bahamas Police Force of a sealed indictment. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York unsealed the indictment earlier on Tuesday, announcing that officials were charging the former FTX CEO with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and campaign violation allegations, among others.

"One month ago FTX, one of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges, collapsed, destroying billions of dollars in customer value, and for every day of the past month, the dedicated prosecutors of this office and our partners [in the] FBI, [Securities and Exchange Commission] and [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] have been working around the clock to figure out what happened and to begin the process of seeking justice," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. "This morning, we unsealed an eight-count indictment charging Samuel Bankman-Fried, FTX's founder, with a series of interrelated fraud schemes that contributed to FTX's collapse."

A grand jury in the U.S. indicted Bankman-Fried last Friday and an arrest warrant was executed Monday, Williams said.

In addition to the U.S. Department of Justice, the SEC and CFTC sued Bankman-Fried Tuesday on various securities and commodities fraud charges.

Government officials in the Bahamas are pursuing their own civil and criminal investigations into Bankman-Fried and FTX.

Flight risk

His lawyer, Jerome Roberts, argued that Bankman-Fried was not a flight risk, citing his ownership of real estate in the Bahamas, as well as the fact that he had been in possession of his passport for at least three weeks before his arrest on Monday, and could have left the country at any time (Roberts told the court on Tuesday that "when it became clear that local police had no interest in Mr. Bankman-Fried, they released his passport to me"). Roberts also added that electronic monitoring and other methods could be used to keep him in the country, and that if he tried to take a flight or boat out of the country, police could be there in "minutes" to arrest him.

Judge Ferguson-Pratt pushed back, telling Roberts that a determined individual could find a way to flee the country.

"If you sat where I sit, with the number of bail violations that come before me, you would understand [my concerns]," she said.

Roberts asked her if Bankman-Fried was not traveling via "air or by sea" how he could leave the country.

Ferguson-Pratt smiled coyly: "I do not wish to put that into the public domain."

The judge asked Roberts what he thought an appropriate figure for cash bail would be.

"You have opened the door and I don't see why I shouldn't walk in," she said. "When you say cash bail, what number comes to your mind?"

"I hope Mr. Bankman-Fried doesn't crucify me for saying this," Roberts said. "But given the circumstances, perhaps $250,000? But your honor doesn't have to agree with me. If $50,000 is a good figure, then $50,000 is a good figure."

Bankman-Fried's parents began talking audibly and smiling widely at the mention of $50,000 bail.

But prosecutors pushed back, and reminded the judge that Bankman-Fried's Bahamian real estate wasn't a sufficient tie to the country because, if found guilty of the crimes he has been accused of, the property could potentially be clawed back to repay investors. They also reminded the judge that Bankman-Fried has "extensive ties" to foreign countries and cities, including Hong Kong, China, where he initially set up Alameda Research, and had told at least one witness that he was "ready to relocate" to a country in the Middle East.

Bail denied

Judge Ferguson-Pratt ultimately decided to deny Bankman-Fried's bail application, telling the court that she did not believe that Bankman-Fried's apartment or the prospect of forfeiting a cash bond would keep him from fleeing.

"It's a subjective test, and it depends on how much one is willing to lose," Ferguson-Pratt said.

"I am of the view that the risk of flight is so great that Mr. Bankman-Fried ought to be remanded to custody," she said.

Bankman-Fried, sitting alone in the first row of benches, slumped over at the news and held his head in his hands.

Until his extradition hearing on Feb. 8, Bankman-Fried will be held at the Bahamas' notorious Fox Hill prison, where conditions are known to be dangerous and cramped. Locals told CoinDesk that the prison is overcrowded, with as many as six people to a cell, and often has issues with potable water.

UPDATE (Dec. 13, 2022, 22:55 UTC): Adds additional detail and information.

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Cheyenne Ligon

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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.


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