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Former FTX executive Ryan Salame will not testify to his involvement in the alleged illegal campaign donation scheme that’s part of the FTX trial, according to a motion filed by U.S. federal prosecutors on August 14.
Salame's attorney indicated that if subpoenaed, Salame would invoke his Fifth Amendment right, a constitutional protection against self-incrimination.
Salame's lawyer did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.
Salame, the former co-CEO of FTX's Bahamian unit, is accused of giving more than $24 million to Republican candidates and causes in the 2022 election cycle using customers' funds. He has not been charged with a crime.
Salame’s decision not to testify is mainly the consequence of the existence of a private message he shared with “a trusted family member” in November 2021, in which he admits his role in the donation scheme.
As detailed in the motion, Salame conveyed in this message that ex-FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried “want[ed] to donate to both democratic [sic] and republican candidates in the US.”
But Salame objected because it would alienate both democrats and republicans, further explaining that the purpose of these bipartisan donations would be “to weed out anti crypto dems for pro-crypto dems and anti-crypto repubs for pro-crypto repubs.”
He also said that it was likely that Bankman-Fried would route money through him “to weed out that Republican side.”
These statements, as per the motion, “are inculpatory of Salame” and will be considered as direct evidence of alleged fraud and money laundering schemes.
What’s next for FTX’s SBF?
Bankman-Fried now faces thirteen counts of conspiracy and fraud over FTX's collapse, though the indictment no longer includes conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws as a separate count.
On July 27, prosecutors initially decided to drop a campaign finance charge claiming that the former billionaire illegally directed associates to donate millions of dollars to political campaigns.
Last week, though, the DoJ indicated that it will “make clear” that “Bankman-Fried remains charged with conducting an illegal campaign finance scheme as part of the fraud and money laundering schemes originally charged.”
FTX’s ex-CEO was jailed on August 11 ahead of his October 2 trial in New York City, with another trial scheduled for March 2024 for additional charges brought across multiple superseding indictments.
FTX didn’t immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comments.