Sam Bankman-Fried appeared in magistrate’s court in the Bahamas on Monday as his lawyers said he will agree to be extradited to the US to face fraud charges related to the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX.
The FTX founder was arrested in Nassau last week and had been resisting extradition to New York following his indictment in Manhattan on US federal fraud and money-laundering charges.
Bankman-Fried was widely expected to reverse his decision and accept extradition in court on Monday, but the move was delayed after his local lawyer, Jerone Roberts, told the court he was unaware of the decision. Magistrate Shaka Serville twice adjourned proceedings to allow Bankman-Fried to confer with his lawyers and call his US attorneys, local news reported.
Bankman-Fried left the courthouse around 1pm local time without having agreed to be sent to the US, according to Reuters. However, two of his lawyers later told local media Bankman-Fried would agree to voluntary extradition. A person with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed Bankman-Fried’s intentions.
Roberts told local media he hoped Bankman-Fried could return to court later this week to formalise his decision to end the extradition fight.
Bankman-Fried arrived at the Nassau courthouse just after 10am local time on Monday, pulling up in a black police van under heavy guard from the jail where he was being held. The charges brought against him last week in the Southern District of New York allege he orchestrated “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history”.
He has denied wrongdoing.
A court in the Bahamas last week denied Bankman-Fried bail, saying there was a risk he would try to flee. The 30-year-old has since been held at Fox Hill Prison in Nassau. The facility has been criticised in international reports for overcrowding and lacking sanitation.
Bankman-Fried would have a new opportunity to seek release on bail in the US following extradition. He also faces civil charges from the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which allege he misled investors and funnelled customer money entrusted to the FTX exchange to his private trading company Alameda Research.
If convicted, Bankman-Fried could face a maximum sentence of more than 100 years in prison, according to legal experts.
FTX, once valued at $32bn by blue-chip investors including Sequoia Capital and BlackRock, collapsed into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware in November after being unable to meet a wave of client demands to withdraw their funds. The company may have more than 1mn creditors, according to bankruptcy filings.
Bankman-Fried had lived in Nassau, in a $30mn penthouse at the luxury Albany complex, since FTX relocated to the Bahamas from Hong Kong late last year after the Caribbean nation set out a bespoke regulatory regime for digital assets.