U.S. Justice Department Agrees to Try Sam Bankman-Fried on Original Charges Only for Now

Sam Bankman-Fried moved to dismiss most of the charges brought against him last month.

AccessTimeIconJun 15, 2023 at 4:50 a.m. UTC
Updated Jun 15, 2023 at 5:13 a.m. UTC
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The U.S. Department of Justice intends to only try FTX founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried on the eight charges it brought in December 2022 for now.

Prosecutors with the DOJ wrote late Wednesday night that they would agree to try Bankman-Fried on a handful of charges, including wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering, after a court in the Bahamas blocked the local government from agreeing to additional charges.

Bankman-Fried faces 13 total charges, but five of these were brought as superseding indictments in February and March 2023. In one of his motions to dismiss last month, attorneys for Bankman-Fried wrote that the government of the Bahamas had to agree to the additional charges – which include bank fraud, operating an unlicensed money transmitter and bribery – before the onetime CEO could be tried, because he was arrested in the Bahamas and extradited to the U.S. last year.

On Tuesday, a court in the Bahamas blocked the government from agreeing to those additional charges until Bankman-Fried's defense team has had a chance to fight against that approval.

In a letter addressed to Judge Lewis Kaplan, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams and his team wrote that the Bahamas court fight may not end until near Bankman-Fried's trial in the U.S.

These charges are counts four (fraud on FTX customers tied to derivatives), six (securities fraud against FTX investors), nine (conspiracy to commit bank fraud), 10 (conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitter business) and 13 (conspiracy to bribe foreign government officials) in the latest superseding indictment.

"In light of the uncertainty concerning when The Bahamas will render a decision with respect to specialty, and to simplify the proof at trial and decrease the burden of trial preparation on the defendant, the Government is prepared to proceed to trial as scheduled on the counts contained in the original Indictment," the letter said.

Those original charges include counts one (conspiracy to commit wire fraud on customers of FTX), two (wire fraud on customers of FTX), three (conspiracy to commit fraud on FTX customers tied to derivatives), five (conspiracy to commit securities fraud against FTX investors), seven (conspiracy to commit wire fraud on lenders to Alameda Research), eight (wire fraud on lenders to Alameda Research), 11 (conspiracy to commit money laundering) and 12 (conspiracy to make unlawful political contributions and defraud the Federal Elections Commission).

The prosecutors requested a trial date in the first quarter of 2024 for the additional charges. Bankman-Fried is currently set to go to trial this October.

Bankman-Fried's defense team filed additional motions to dismiss most of those other charges on various grounds, though the DOJ has pushed back against their arguments. A hearing is set for 10:30 a.m. ET on Thursday for oral arguments on the motions to dismiss.

Inner City Press first reported on the DOJ letter.

A second letter filed by prosecutors on Wednesday night addressed claims previously made by Bankman-Fried's team alleging the DOJ had failed to provide all of the discovery materials requested.

According to this second letter, the DOJ believes it had provided most of those discovery materials, but said it faced delays for various reasons including technical issues.

UPDATE (June 15, 2023, 05:15 UTC): Adds additional detail.

Edited by Jesse Hamilton and Sam Reynolds.


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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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