Authorities in the Bahamas on Monday evening arrested Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange which fell to earth with a bang last month, costing users and creditors billions of dollars and cratering large swaths of the crypto market.
The Royal Bahamas Police Force took Bankman-Fried into custody following a formal request made by U.S. authorities, which has asked the Bahamian government to extradite the former CEO and on Tuesday issued a formal complaint detailing a number of criminal charges including wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, securities fraud, securities fraud conspiracy and money laundering.
“The Bahamas and the United States have a shared interest in holding accountable all individuals associated with FTX who may have betrayed the public trust and broken the law,” said Bahamian Prime Minister Philip Davis in a statement.
The Bahamas also plans to continue looking into potential criminal misconduct involved in the collapse of FTX and its related entities alongside the U.S. run investigation.
The exchange and its founder had been based in the Caribbean country due to its favorable stance toward crypto companies, which became a source of contention amid rumors of close ties between Bankman-Fried and the archipelago’s chief regulator.
Bankman-Fried’s arrest was also confirmed by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which on Tuesday morning published an indictment painting Bankman-Fried’s actions in stark terms.
“Throughout this period, Bankman-Fried portrayed himself as a responsible leader of the crypto community” and “touted the importance of regulation and accountability,” the complaint said. “Customers around the world believed his lies, and sent billions of dollars to FTX, believing their assets were secure on the FTX trading platform.”
“But from the start,” the complaint added, “Bankman-Fried improperly diverted customer assets to his privately-held crypto hedge fund, Alameda Research LLC and then used those customer funds to make undisclosed venture investments, lavish real estate purchases, and large political donations.”
USA Damian Williams: Earlier this evening, Bahamian authorities arrested Samuel Bankman-Fried at the request of the U.S. Government, based on a sealed indictment filed by the SDNY. We expect to move to unseal the indictment in the morning and will have more to say at that time.
— US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) December 12, 2022
Bankman-Fried’s arrest and indictment come after weeks of speculation and righteous indignation over a perceived lack of effort to detain the disgraced founder after his exchange collapsed in spectacular fashion mid November. Many in the crypto world were especially bemused by Bankman-Fried’s apparent freedom to embark on a lengthy media tour in which he retailed his preferred version of events to countless news outlets, against the advice of his legal team.
FTX collapsed in mid-November after it emerged that its sister firm, the trading company Alameda Research, had been gambling with customer funds to fill a vast hole on its balance sheet. That left wafer-thin collateral backing user deposits, which proved insufficient when FTX subsequently suffered a run on customer deposits.
FTX was soon forced to declare bankruptcy, and the ensuing hunt for Alameda’s lost billions shed light on a number of shady practices at the heart of an exchange whose founder had weeks prior been featured in front cover splashes by the likes of Fortune Magazine as the face of the crypto industry’s respectable side. Contagion followed quickly, bringing down a host of companies to which Bankman-Fried had extended bailout loans earlier in the year while casting himself as a white knight.
Hours before his arrest on Monday Bankman-Fried appears to have tweeted the latest in a line of ad hoc defenses, responding to an article that claimed his FTX inner circle operated a secret Signal group called “Wirefraud” to discuss operations that were kept under wraps.
“If this is true then I wasn’t a member of that inner circle. (I’m quite sure it’s just false; I have never heard of such a group),” tweeted Bankman-Fried, around two hours before authorities released a statement confirming his arrest.