Disgraced cryptocurrency tycoon Sam Bankman-Fried has been released on a $250m (£208m) bond package as he awaits fraud charges – the largest ever pretrial bond in history.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have accused him of stealing billions of dollars of customer’s money to plug losses at his hedge fund, Alameda Research.
In the space of a month, Bankman-Fried’s star-studded £21bn cryptocurrency empire collapsed and he has been charged with defrauding investors in the US.
FTX was once one of the world’s biggest digital currency exchanges, valued at $32bn, but ended up filing for bankruptcy protection in just three days.
Bankman-Fried oversaw a spectacular implosion that – almost exactly a month later – saw him arrested in The Bahamas.
He was not asked to enter a plea on Thursday. He has previously acknowledged risk-management failures at FTX, but has said he does not believe he has criminal liability.
His defence lawyer, Mark Cohen, declined to comment after the hearing in the Manhattan federal court.
His arrest in The Bahamas, where he lived and where FTX is based, cemented the one-time billionaire’s spectacular fall from grace.
Cohen said he agreed with prosecutors’ proposed bail conditions.
He noted that his parents – both Stanford Law School professors – would co-sign the bond and post the equity in their
home as assurance for Bankman-Fried’s return to court.
“My client remained where he was, he made no effort to flee,” Cohen said.
Following the agreement of the bond, Bankman-Fried was seen leaving the court and entering a car.
‘Impossible to hide’
Wearing a grey suit and leg restraints, Bankman-Fried sat flanked by his lawyers and nodded when the judge informed him that if he fails to appear in court, a warrant would be issued for his arrest.
He spoke only when asked by Gorenstein whether he understood the conditions of his release, and that he could be charged with an additional crime if he fails to show up to court.
“Yes I do,” Bankman-Fried replied.
His next court date has been set as 3 January 2023. Bankman-Fried also faces electronic monitoring and a ban on opening new lines of credit or businesses.
He said Bankman-Fried had “achieved sufficient notoriety that it would be impossible” for him to hide without being recognised or engage in further financial schemes.
Down to his ‘last $100,000’
Concerns about the co-mingling of funds between FTX and Bankman-Fried’s hedge fund first became apparent in November and led to a flurry of customer withdrawals.
On 11 November, the former “crypto king”, as many in the media have labelled him, said he was down to his last $100,000.
Just hours after Bankman-Fried’s plane from The Bahamas took off, Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in
Manhattan, announced that two of Bankman-Fried’s closest associates – former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison and FTX co-founder Gary Wang – had pleaded guilty and were cooperating with prosecutors.