Sam Bankman-Fried Faces New U.S. Indictment Over Chinese Bribery Charge

A superseding indictment was shared on Wednesday morning. A Federal judge also approved new bail restrictions for the FTX founder.

AccessTimeIconMar 28, 2023 at 1:36 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 28, 2023 at 11:25 p.m. UTC

U.S. prosecutors unveiled a new indictment against FTX crypto exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried Tuesday, adding a bribery charge on top of the 12 other charges he already faces.

The former FTX CEO faces charges of fraud, conspiracy and trying to evade U.S. campaign financing laws. Bankman-Fried was arrested last year but released on bond, although the specific terms of his release have been under discussion by both prosecutors and his defense team.

According to the superseding indictment shared Tuesday, Bankman-Fried is accused of attempting to bribe at least one and possibly more Chinese government officials as part of an effort to unfreeze certain accounts.

"In or about November 2021, Samuel Bankman-Fried, a/k/a 'SBF,' the defendant, and others directed and caused the transfer of at least approximately $40 million in cryptocurrency intended for the benefit of one or more Chinese officials in order to influence and induce them to unfreeze the Accounts," the indictment reads.

A letter to the federal district court judge overseeing the case said a grand jury returned the indictment on March 27.

"The S5 Indictment, which was unsealed this morning, includes the twelve counts contained in the S3 Superseding Indictment, as well an additional count for conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act ('FCPA'), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371," the letter said.

Bankman-Fried has yet to be arraigned on five of the 13 total charges against him, the letter said.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan also approved changes to Bankman-Fried's bail restrictions focused on his use of electronic devices. Bankman-Fried can no longer communicate with former FTX or Alameda Research (FTX's trading arm) employees except when counsel is present, or use any "encrypted or ephemeral call or messaging application, including but not limited to 'Signal.'"

He is limited to a new laptop or phone that provides access only to about 40 pre-approved websites that are necessary for his defense or are for personal use "and do not pose a risk of danger to the community." The latter group include major newspapers and crypto publications.

Bankman-Fried's new laptop will include software that will block access to USB storage devices, preventing him from transferring data to or from the device, and track his activity. He will be limited to voice calls and SMS text messages on his new smart phone. He must turn over his old laptop and smart phone to his attorneys who will remove it from his home.

Meetings with visitors must be arranged in advance with his defense attorneys, who will ensure that a security guard is present to screen for unauthorized electronic devices through the use of a handheld metal detector.

There is a pre-trial conference set for 11:00 a.m. ET on March 30.

UPDATE (March 28, 2023, 14:00 UTC): Adds additional detail.

CORRECTION (March 28, 2023, 15:40 UTC): Corrects that the superseding indictment was published Tuesday, not Wednesday.

UPDATE (March 28, 2023, 23:25 UTC): Adds changes to bail restrictions.

Edited by Stephen Alpher and James Rubin.


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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.