Sam Bankman-Fried denies US witness tampering claim


FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s lawyer insisted Saturday his client didn’t seek to influence a witness in the US government’s fraud case against him, accusing prosecutors of trying to portray him “in the worst possible light.”

Mark Cohen, a lawyer for Bankman-Fried, asked the federal judge presiding over the case to allow his client to meet some people involved in FTX, saying his client needs to participate in his defense. Cohen says Bankman-Fried’s use of Signal to reach out to the current general counsel of FTX US, who is a witness, was “merely an innocuous attempt to offer assistance in FTX’s bankruptcy process and does not reflect misconduct that warrants the restriction the Government proposes here.”

Bankman-Fried stepped down as CEO of FTX, the cryptocurrency platform he founded, in November after the empire collapsed owing billions of dollars. The new CEO, restructuring expert John J. Ray III, has rebuffed Bankman-Fried’s attempts to help tracking down assets as part of bankruptcy proceedings.

Ray, who oversaw the liquidation of Enron, said Bankman-Fried hasn’t told him anything he doesn’t already know. As Ray was not CEO until the bankruptcy filing, he wasn’t a “percipient witness” charges, because he has no knowledge regarding any of the events alleged in the indictment, according to Bankman-Fried’s lawyers.

Later on Saturday, Lewis Kaplan, the federal judge in Manhattan who is overseeing Bankman-Fried’s case, gave prosecutors until Jan. 30 to respond to the defense request to modify bail conditions.

Kaplan asked the government to provide him with a copy of the Signal message and email Bankman-Fried sent the current general counsel of FTX US, who is a witness in the case.

The judge also warned lawyers he “expects all counsel to abstain from pejorative characterisations of the actions and motives of their adversaries.”

Bankman-Fried has been living at his parents’ house in Palo Alto, California, after being released from custody in December on a $250 million bail package. He is accused of committing a years-long fraud at FTX and allowing customer funds to be used for trading at hedge fund arm Alameda Research and on personal expenses.

The case is US v. Bankman-Fried, 22-cr-673, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

© 2023 Bloomberg

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