For Once, Sam Bankman-Fried's Lawyer Lands a Punch at FTX CEO's Criminal Trial

Under questioning from defense attorney Mark Cohen, a former FTX exec and government witness admitted to some hazy memories.

AccessTimeIconOct 17, 2023 at 3:41 p.m. UTC
Updated Oct 18, 2023 at 6:14 p.m. UTC
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NEW YORK — Nishad Singh, a member of Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle, couldn't quite remember what he told prosecutors about his conversations with the fallen cryptocurrency mogul and other FTX executives, he said Tuesday in response to questioning from Bankman-Fried's lawyers.

The former Bankman-Fried confidant's admission marked the first time since the trial began two weeks ago that the defense has seemingly managed to poke a hole in the case against their client, whose empire crumbled nearly a year ago.

Singh's second day of testimony against his former friend, roommate and colleague began with relatively calm, but steady, questions from attorney Mark Cohen, who's leading the defense.

Cohen walked Singh through his testimony from the day before, seeming to build up to question Singh's memory of his conversations regarding a bug in Alameda's code in June 2022 and his response to the FTX team living in a luxury penthouse in the Bahamas.

Didn't Singh tell prosecutors he had a "surprising amount of haziness" about the sequence of events from June 2022, Cohen asked after having Singh walk through that very sequence. Singh said he could not remember what he told prosecutors at the meeting Cohen highlighted, which took place in January 2023.

Former FTX executive Nishant Singh leaves court on Oct. 17 after testifying (Danny Nelson/CoinDesk)
Former FTX executive Nishant Singh leaves court on Oct. 17 after testifying (Danny Nelson/CoinDesk)

Assistant U.S. Attorney Roos, on his redirect examination, cleared up one of these questions: Singh had never seen the notes Cohen referred to. Prosecutors had compiled them over the course of the investigation but they were not shared, meaning the first time Singh saw the notes was during the cross-examination on Tuesday.

Defense attorney Cohen also questioned Singh's assertion that the penthouse at the Orchid, a facility in the Bahamas' upscale Albany area, was too expensive. Singh, Bankman-Fried and other residents of the penthouse were billionaires or multimillionaires, so was the choice of residence appropriate for that level of wealth, Cohen asked. Singh said he wasn't sure.

Sketch of Sam Bankman-Fried at his trial. (Nik De/CoinDesk)
Sketch of Sam Bankman-Fried at his trial. (Nik De/CoinDesk)

Cohen also asked if Singh had a view on Alameda borrowing funds so long as the company's assets were in excess of borrows. Singh told the court he did not think it was appropriate. Cohen sighed.

Sketch of FBI Agent Richard Busick testifying in the Sam Bankman-Fried trial (Nik De/CoinDesk)
Sketch of FBI Agent Richard Busick testifying in the Sam Bankman-Fried trial (Nik De/CoinDesk)

Cohen completed his questioning of Singh in the early afternoon, after finding a few similar discrepancies between what the former FTX executive told the jury Monday and Tuesday, and what he'd supposedly told prosecutors in the months leading up to the trial.

Cell site analysis

After Singh finished testifying, prosecutors called FBI agent Richard Busick to the stand.

Busick, a specialist in cell site analysis, spent an hour confirming that a certain cell phone number, which prosecutors said belonged to Bankman-Fried, was active in New York at various times through 2021 and 2022.

The defense, in its cross-examination, asked Busick if he could confirm who was using the phone at the times he analyzed its data. Busick said he could not.

Prosecutors said they expected to call Peter Easton, a financial forensics expert, on Wednesday to discuss financial flows.

UPDATE (22:32 UTC): Adds details throughout.

Edited by Marc Hochstein.

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