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Sam Bankman-Fried bribed Chinese officials to the tune of $40 million as he got desperate about frozen Alameda funds, new DOJ charge claims

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
Stephanie Keith—Getty Images

In the U.S.’s ongoing case against Sam Bankman-Fried, prosecutors filed new charges against the disgraced FTX founder on Tuesday, adding a 13th count related to an alleged bribe made to Chinese officials.

In the indictment, prosecutors for the U.S. Southern District of New York accuse Bankman-Fried of authorizing and directing a bribe of at least $40 million to one or more Chinese government officials, with the purpose of influencing them to unfreeze accounts belonging to his proprietary trading firm, Alameda Research. The alleged bribe occurred “in or about 2021,” according to the indictment. China banned all crypto in September 2021.

After cofounding Alameda in 2017, Bankman-Fried moved the firm’s operations to Hong Kong in early 2019 before later relocating to the Bahamas in late 2021. Prosecutors allege that in early 2021, Chinese law enforcement authorities froze some of Alameda’s trading accounts on two of the country’s largest exchanges, with the accounts holding a combined $1 billion in cryptocurrency. Bankman-Fried understood that the freezing of the accounts was related to an ongoing investigation into an Alameda counterparty.

To unfreeze the accounts, Bankman-Fried and Alameda employees, at his direction, tried different methods to free up the capital and regain access, including hiring attorneys to lobby the government, communicating directly with the exchanges, and creating new exchange accounts using the personal information of unaffiliated people to transfer the cryptocurrency.

After months of unsuccessful attempts, Bankman-Fried decided to attempt a multimillion-dollar bribe, authorizing the illicit transfer of cryptocurrency to at least one Chinese official of around $40 million. After the payment, according to the indictment, the accounts were unfrozen, prompting Bankman-Fried to authorize the transfer of additional tens of millions of dollars to complete the bribe.

The spectacular collapse of FTX in November unearthed Bankman-Fried’s alleged scheme to redirect customer funds to Alameda for its own trading purposes, but ensuing revelations from prosecutors have also detailed Bankman-Fried’s attempts to gain political influence through lobbying efforts and political donations.

The newest charge demonstrates that Bankman-Fried’s efforts were not just limited to the U.S. and the Bahamas. His trial is scheduled for October.

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