Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sam Bankman-Fried pleads not guilty to additional set of charges

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX, enters U.S. District Court in Lower Manhattan in a photo taken earlier this year.  (New York Times)
By David Yaffe-Bellany and Matthew Goldstein New York Times

New York Times

Disgraced cryptocurrency executive Sam Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty Thursday to an array of criminal charges, including new accusations that he committed bank fraud and bribed a foreign official.

Bankman-Fried, 31, was back in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Thursday to be arraigned on an updated indictment that included five additional counts against him.

In all, the founder of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, who was originally charged in December, is facing 13 criminal counts. Federal prosecutors have said Bankman-Fried orchestrated a vast fraud that led to the collapse of the exchange in November and the misappropriation of billions of dollars in customer deposits.

In January, he pleaded not guilty to the eight criminal charges in the original indictment.

But federal prosecutors in Manhattan have been moving fast to expand the case against Bankman-Fried, who is scheduled to go to trial in October. Last month, they announced that they had filed a bank fraud count and three other charges against him. And just this week, they filed the foreign bribery charge, accusing Bankman-Fried of orchestrating a $40 million payment to at least one Chinese official in 2021 to unfreeze $1 billion in funds belonging to Alameda Research, his trading firm.

In court Thursday, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, Mark Cohen, said his client was challenging the charges. “My client pleads not guilty,” Cohen said.

He also indicated that Bankman-Fried’s legal team might contest the government’s right to bring some of the additional charges. Bankman-Fried was extradited to the United States from the Bahamas, where FTX was based. In extradition cases, prosecutors are sometimes limited in bringing additional charges after a defendant is transferred to the United States for an initial indictment.

In the updated charging document, federal prosecutors said that in 2021, Bankman-Fried instructed Alameda employees to pay a $40 million bribe to one or more unnamed Chinese officials to restore access to trading accounts maintained by Alameda that held about $1 billion in cryptocurrency. One of Alameda’s frozen accounts was at crypto exchange Huobi, according to two people familiar with the matter; the exchange did not respond to a request for comment. Alameda relied on at least one Chinese speaker on staff to help unfreeze the funds, one of the people said.

The bribe was paid in cryptocurrency and succeeded in getting the trading accounts unfrozen, prosecutors said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.