Cryptocurrency entrepreneur faces fraud charges and could be flown from Bahamas to US as early as Wednesday.
Sam Bankman-Fried has consented to be extradited to the United States, where he faces fraud charges, according to an affidavit his lawyer read at a court hearing in the Bahamas.
It paves the way for the founder of the bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange to be flown to the US as early as Wednesday.
Bankman-Fried decided to agree to extradition in part out of a “desire to make the relevant customers whole”, according to the affidavit, read in court on Wednesday and dated on Tuesday.
Bankman-Fried stepped up to the witness box and spoke clearly and steadily as he was sworn in.
“Yes, I do wish to waive my right to such formal extradition proceedings,” he told the judge.
His defence lawyer said his client was “anxious to leave”.
The hearing was adjourned after the statements.
Officials with the FBI and the US Marshals Service, which handles transportation of people in US custody, have arrived in the Bahamian capital, Nassau, a person familiar with the matter said.
It was not immediately clear when Bankman-Fried would depart the Caribbean nation for New York.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged the 30-year-old cryptocurrency mogul with stealing billions of dollars in FTX customer assets to plug losses at his hedge fund, Alameda Research, in what US Attorney Damian Williams called “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history”.
Bankman-Fried was arrested on a US extradition request on December 13 in the Bahamas, where he lives and where FTX is based. He initially said he would contest extradition, but Reuters and other news outlets reported over the weekend that he would reverse that decision.
Bankman-Fried’s US-based defence lawyer, Mark Cohen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. A spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan declined to comment.
Bankman-Fried has acknowledged risk-management failures at FTX but has said he does not believe he is criminally liable.
Confusing sequence of events
Wednesday’s hearing follows a confusing sequence of events this week that had left the status of Bankman-Fried’s expected extradition unclear.
On Monday, following the news reports that he had agreed to be extradited, Bankman-Fried appeared in court, and his local defence lawyer Jerone Roberts said he had not been informed of the purpose of the proceedings. After a brief recess, Roberts said his client had seen an affidavit outlining the charges against him but wanted access to the full US indictment against him before consenting to extradition.
The proceedings were then adjourned. They had been expected to resume on Tuesday morning, but Bankman-Fried’s legal papers were not ready in time.
Bankman-Fried rode a crypto boom to become a billionaire several times over and an influential US political donor before FTX’s crash wiped out his wealth and tarnished his reputation. The collapse was driven by a wave of customer withdrawals over concerns about the commingling of funds with Alameda.
The $32bn exchange declared bankruptcy on November 11, and Bankman-Fried stepped down as its CEO the same day.
He has since been detained at the Bahamas Department of Corrections in Nassau, known as Fox Hill prison. In a 2021 report, the US Department of State described conditions at the facility as “harsh,” citing overcrowding, rodent infestations and prisoners relying on buckets as toilets.
Local authorities say conditions have since improved.