FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried plans to testify at criminal fraud trial

The FTX cryptocurrency exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried plans to testify at his criminal fraud trial, his defense lawyer said.

Bankman-Fried’s defense lawyer, Mark Cohen, made the announcement during a telephone hearing on Wednesday.

Bankman Fried, 31, is charged with seven criminal counts of securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to launder money. Prosecutors say he looted billions of dollars in FTX customer funds to plug losses at his Alameda Research hedge fund, make speculative venture investments, and donate more than $100m to US political candidates and campaigns. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Three former members of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle at FTX and Alameda testified during his trial earlier this month that he directed them to commit fraud, including Caroline Ellison, his ex-girlfriend and the former Alameda CEO. Over three days of testimony earlier this month, Ellison described her personal relationship with Bankman-Fried and the crimes she alleged they committed.

The decision to use FTX customer funds to cover Alameda’s shortfall was Bankman-Fried’s, she said, and he repeatedly directed her to repay loans. “I understood that he was telling me to use FTX customer funds to repay our loans.”

Bankman-Fried has acknowledged making mistakes running FTX and Alameda, but has argued he never knowingly committed fraud. Taking the stand could give him an opportunity to win jurors’ trust after weeks of unflattering testimony from government witnesses.

His defense has sought to paint him as a “math nerd” who never intended to defraud anyone but fell in over his head.

In addition to Bankman-Fried, Cohen also told the judge overseeing the case on Wednesday that the defense planned to call witnesses including Krystal Rolle, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer in the Bahamas, where FTX was based until its November 2022 collapse.

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case on Thursday after a week-long break. The defense is then expected to begin presenting its case.

  • This article was amended on 26 October 2023 to correct the spelling of Krystal Rolle’s name.