Officials in the Bahamas may send former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried to the United States for questioning about his imploded cryptocurrency company.
FTX, which is based in the Bahamas and incorporated in Antigua and Barbuda, filed for bankruptcy on Friday after customers discovered that firms controlled by Bankman-Fried and his associates were allegedly fraudulently intertwined, triggering a liquidity crisis as customers rushed to withdraw funds. A number of individual users and larger clients still have as much as $8 billion remaining with the company while Bankman-Fried asks investors to help compensate existing account holders.
According to a Wednesday report from Bloomberg, Bankman-Fried was questioned by police in the Bahamas on Saturday as officials from the island nation coordinate with American counterparts on the possibility of shipping the former billionaire back to his home country for questioning. Bloomberg, which cited three people familiar with the matter, added that Bankman-Fried has been cooperating with Bahamian authorities.
Noticeably absent from the Bloomberg report was the term “extradition,” which specifically references the transfer of a person between nations for the purpose of criminal prosecution or punishment. The United States and the Bahamas signed an extradition treaty in 1990.
House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-NC) indeed announced on Wednesday that a bipartisan hearing will consider testimony from Bankman-Fried and others involved in related entities, including competitor Binance, which nearly purchased FTX. “Oversight is one of Congress’ most critical functions and we must get to the bottom of this for FTX’s customers and the American people,” McHenry said in a press release. “It’s essential that we hold bad actors accountable so responsible players can harness technology to build a more inclusive financial system.”
FTX was founded a mere three years ago and became an overnight success. Alameda Research, a trading firm launched by Bankman-Fried and led by Caroline Ellison, with whom he had been romantically intertwined, allegedly borrowed customer holdings from FTX to make trades, according to a report from CNBC. Executives underestimated the amount FTX needed to keep in reserves should customers want to remove their funds.
Even before the fraudulent investment practices utilized by Bankman-Fried and his associates were exposed, the company had offered lofty promises to potential investors shortly after launch, as shown by resurfaced emails, one of which offered “high returns with no risk.”
Bankman-Fried was once the second-largest donor to the Biden campaign and emerged as the sixth-largest contributor during the recent midterm elections, which occurred days before his company collapsed. The Democratic donor is the son of Stanford Law professors Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried, who are well-connected within Democratic circles, and the nephew of Linda Fried, who is the dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and an affiliate of the World Economic Forum.
Among other elements of the defunct cryptocurrency empire that have received criticism in the past week is the connection between FTX and the Ukrainian war effort. Earlier this year, Bankman-Fried launched an initiative alongside Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation to solicit donations for the embattled nation, which has received billions in humanitarian and military aid from the Biden administration, marking “the first instance of a cryptocurrency exchange providing a conduit for crypto donations to a public financial institution,” according to a press release from a Ukraine-based cryptocurrency firm. FTX converted the donations into fiat currencies and transmitted the funds to the National Bank of Ukraine.