Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, has released his first comprehensive legal argument in response to fraud charges leveled against him by prosecutors.
In Monday's filings in a Manhattan federal court, SBF sought to dismiss several allegations and asserts that the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, which represents FTX in the bankruptcy proceedings, has acted as an agent of the federal government in constructing the criminal case against him.
The FTX founder, who currently resides in his parent’s home in Palo Alto under house arrest, faces a total of 13 criminal charges ranging from money laundering to wire fraud.
His legal team is now attempting to have 10 of these charges dismissed. The filings contend that four of the charges, which include foreign bribery, campaign finance, and bank fraud, breach aspects of the extradition process between the U.S. and the Bahamas, where Bankman-Fried was arrested in December.
The defense lawyers also contend that the remaining six charges are too ambiguous or have other legal shortcomings and should therefore be dismissed.
It should be noted that Bankman-Fried has not disputed three of the charges: conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Prosecutors have until May 29 to respond to Bankman-Fried's dismissal request, while U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan is set to hear arguments on June 15.
FTX lawyers 'a public mouthpiece for the government'
According to SBF’s attorneys, the law firm and FTX may have been concealing critical evidence, de facto becoming the government's representatives in the criminal case against their client.
“FTX’s legal advisors went to the government to accuse Mr. Bankman-Fried behind his back without knowing the full facts, and ultimately forced him to step down as CEO,” the lawyers wrote.
The attorney went on to add that “rather than wait for traditional civil and regulatory processes following their ordinary course to address the situation, the Government jumped in with both feet, improperly seeking to turn these civil and regulatory issues into federal crimes.”
Furthermore, SBF’s legal counsel asserts that FTX, its current CEO John Jay Ray III, and Sullivan & Cromwell “have acted as a public mouthpiece for the government” and “have assumed the role of prosecutor by publicly labeling” Bankman-Fried as “‘the villain,’” the filings say.
The defense also argues that the collapse of FTX, once the third-largest cryptocurrency exchange in terms of trading volume with a valuation of $32 billion, was the result of last year’s “crypto winter,” which saw the price of Bitcoin and many other major digital currencies plummet.
Representatives for FTX and Sullivan & Cromwell did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s requests for comment.
Sam Bankman-Fried's estimated net worth of $26 billion, largely built on the back of the cryptocurrency boom, was largely eroded after the collapse of FTX in November last year. The exchange faced a surge of customer withdrawals after reports emerged that it had mingled assets with Alameda Research, an affiliated cryptocurrency trading firm.
In the days following the FTX collapse, reports alleged that SBF routinely took customer funds, transferred them to other companies, including Alameda Research, and used them for his own purposes.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have accused Bankman-Fried of misappropriating billions of dollars from FTX customer funds to cover losses at Alameda, purchase property, and engage in a straw-donor scheme to make political contributions.