Technology

Prosecutors Flip Sam Bankman-Fried’s Personal Phrases Towards Him

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When the cryptocurrency trade FTX was driving excessive, Sam Bankman-Fried, the corporate founder, communicated with the general public in a relentless torrent of tweets, TV interviews and pronouncements in entrance of Congress.

Now as Mr. Bankman-Fried testifies in his personal protection at his federal fraud trial in Manhattan, these phrases are coming again to hang-out him.

On Monday, a federal prosecutor bombarded the disgraced cryptocurrency mogul with questions as he took the stand for the second time. Over an hour and a half within the morning, the prosecutor, Danielle Sassoon, grilled Mr. Bankman-Fried in regards to the inconsistencies between his public statements and the way he ran his crypto empire earlier than it collapsed spectacularly in November.

Mr. Bankman-Fried, 31, sporting a lightweight grey swimsuit and purple tie, insisted that he couldn’t bear in mind a lot of what he had mentioned publicly. He added that he wasn’t considerably concerned within the hedge fund he based, Alameda Analysis.

“I’m undecided,” he responded time and again, as Ms. Sassoon requested about statements he had made when he was chief govt of FTX. “I can’t recall,” he mentioned at different factors.

The cross-examination uncovered cracks in Mr. Bankman-Fried’s claims, dealing a doubtlessly severe blow to his credibility with the jury of 9 girls and three males who will resolve his destiny. Ms. Sassoon displayed statements that appeared to point out Mr. Bankman-Fried saying one factor in public, then appearing in another way in personal. After having him recount FTX’s efforts to woo authorities officers in Washington, Ms. Sassoon requested him to repeat personal messages through which he used an expletive to dismiss regulators as ineffective.

Mr. Bankman-Fried’s testimony was essentially the most anticipated second of a high-profile trial that has shone a highlight on the hubris and rampant danger taking that brought on the crypto trade to implode final 12 months, erasing billions of {dollars} in financial savings. As soon as the face of crypto’s efforts to woo the general public, Mr. Bankman-Fried is now extensively in comparison with a number of the most infamous fraudsters in current historical past, together with Elizabeth Holmes, the founding father of the failed blood-testing start-up Theranos.

Taking the stand was dangerous. Felony defendants often keep away from testifying in order that prosecutors don’t have an opportunity to query them. However the first few weeks of the trial have been so damaging for Mr. Bankman-Fried, as a procession of presidency witnesses testified that he lied to the general public and stole from FTX prospects, that he was left with few choices to salvage the case.

In December, federal prosecutors charged Mr. Bankman-Fried with orchestrating a sweeping scheme to steal as a lot as $10 billion from FTX’s prospects. They mentioned he spent the cash on extravagant initiatives, together with enterprise capital investments, political contributions and luxurious actual property purchases within the Bahamas, the place FTX was based mostly. Mr. Bankman-Fried was additionally accused of making a secret backdoor in FTX’s code that allowed Alameda to grab billions of {dollars} in buyer funds.

Not lengthy after FTX imploded, three of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s closest associates — Caroline Ellison, Nishad Singh and Gary Wang — pleaded responsible to fraud and agreed to cooperate with the federal government, hoping for extra lenient sentences. All three testified in opposition to Mr. Bankman-Fried on the trial, telling the jury that they lied and stole for years at his behest.

Mr. Bankman-Fried took the stand on Friday to inform his aspect of the story. He forged himself as a hard-working founder who was overwhelmed by his tasks and let main enterprise points go unaddressed. He denied that he dedicated fraud, and blamed his colleagues for lots of the issues that led to FTX’s collapse.

On Monday, it was the prosecution’s flip to ask questions. The courtroom was full of spectators, together with Mr. Bankman-Fried’s dad and mom, the regulation professors Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried, and Damian Williams, the highest federal prosecutor in New York. Ms. Sassoon’s mom was additionally in attendance.

Ms. Sassoon targeted lots of her questions on Mr. Bankman-Fried’s statements to the media and Congress. She grilled him about interviews he gave through which he insisted that Alameda had no particular privileges as a buyer that traded on FTX. Over the primary three weeks of the trial, prosecutors known as a collection of witnesses who testified that the other was true, and that Mr. Bankman-Fried channeled billions of {dollars} to Alameda.

Ms. Sassoon requested at one level, “Do you deny that Alameda was the one FTX buyer” that accepted different individuals’s deposits into its financial institution accounts?

“I’m undecided,” Mr. Bankman-Fried replied.

Ms. Sassoon additionally requested the FTX founder whether or not he had assured the general public that the trade would maintain its prospects’ property secure.

Mr. Bankman-Fried hemmed and hawed, saying he didn’t particularly recall. “I made a number of public statements,” he mentioned.

Ms. Sassoon then confirmed a tweet that Mr. Bankman-Fried had posted about that very difficulty. “And, as all the time, our customers’ funds and security come first,” he had written.