Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of the collapsed crypto exchange FTX, is currently attempting to prevent the government from asking multiple witnesses in his upcoming fraud trial set to open on October 3 in New York. Notably, Bankman-Fried aims to prevent the testimonies from former FTX investors, insiders, and a Ukrainian customer who tragically lost their life savings on the platform.
Bankman-Fried accused of stealing billions from customers
Bankman-Fried faces various charges, including wire fraud, securities fraud, money laundering, and violating campaign finance laws. The allegations against him involve stealing billions of dollars from FTX customers to support his hedge fund Alameda Research, indulge in luxury properties, and engaging in illegal political contributions.
In 2019, Bankman-Fried co-founded FTX alongside Gary Wang. The cryptocurrency exchange swiftly grew to become one of the largest globally. However, following a series of controversies and investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), FTX filed for bankruptcy in November 2022.
Prosecutors contend that Bankman-Fried deceived customers regarding the security of their assets at FTX while using a proprietary “risk engine” to manipulate markets and funnel resources into Alameda Research. They also asserts that he employed coded language when communicating with co-conspirators; some have chosen to cooperate with authorities.
Bankman-Fried’s lawyer argues against witness testimony
Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, Mark Cohen, filed a motion on Tuesday seeking to exclude the testimony of several witnesses intended to be called by the government. Cohen argued that their opinions and interpretations are irrelevant, prejudicial, and premature.
According to him, the government aims to have percipient witnesses express subjective viewpoints on matters that the jury should evaluate objectively. Additionally, he highlighted that the government wants to present expert witnesses after Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected Bankman-Fried’s own proposed experts.
Cohen also raised objections concerning the testimony of a Ukrainian FTX customer who suffered significant financial losses on the exchange and is unable to leave his country due to war. He contended that allowing this customer to testify remotely is inappropriate since his selection appears aimed solely at eliciting sympathy and outrage from the jury.
The trial is expected to span multiple weeks and commences with jury selection at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time in a lower Manhattan courthouse on Tuesday. Bankman-Fried has entered a plea of not guilty for all charges brought against him and may face imprisonment for over 100 years if convicted. Furthermore, he awaits another trial scheduled for March 2024 regarding five additional charges related to alleged bribery of Chinese officials.
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