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On the second day of the trial involving FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried, Ryan Salame, a prominent FTX executive who played a crucial role in the exchange’s political fundraising operations, appeared at the federal courthouse.
FTX Executive In The Spotlight
Salame, the co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets in the Bahamas, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges related to unlawful contributions, defrauding the Federal Election Commission, and operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business.
In a federal courtroom located in downtown Manhattan, Salame acknowledged violating campaign finance laws and engaging in unlicensed money transmission.
During his plea, Salame revealed that he had made substantial political contributions under the direction of Sam Bankman-Fried. These contributions were initially labeled as loans from Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund affiliated with FTX.
Salame disclosed, “I understood that the loans would eventually be forgiven and that I would never have to repay them.” When asked if he was pleading guilty to the charges, Salame responded, “Yes, Your Honor.”
Trial Of Sam Bankman-Fried Begins With Prosecution’s Opening Statement
In the highly anticipated trial, the prosecution presented its opening statement, delivered by Assistant United States Attorney Rehn.
Judge Kaplan: Opening statements are like trailers of a movie. The government will go first. Mr. Rehn?
AUSA Thane Rehn: One year ago, it looked like Sam Bankman Fried was on top of the world. He hung around with Tom Brady and Bill Clinton.
— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) October 4, 2023
Rehn began by painting a picture of Bankman-Fried’s rise to prominence, emphasizing his wealth, power, and influence. However, Rehn alleged that Bankman-Fried’s success was built on lies and a massive fraud scheme that defrauded thousands of victims and resulted in billions of dollars in losses.
The prosecutor pointed to FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange founded by Bankman-Fried in 2019, as the vehicle for his fraudulent activities.
The prosecution asserted that Bankman-Fried misled customers, telling them their funds were safe while allegedly misappropriating their money for personal use and political contributions. Rehn highlighted Bankman-Fried’s congressional testimony, in which he claimed that FTX did not hold customers’ funds.
However, the prosecution alleged that Bankman-Fried set up a bank account linked to his crypto hedge fund, Alameda Research, and diverted customers’ deposits into that account.
Rehn further detailed the second method through which Bankman-Fried allegedly misappropriated funds. He explained that Bankman-Fried granted Alameda Research the ability to withdraw customers’ crypto assets from their digital wallets, effectively giving himself access to those funds.
The prosecution contended that Bankman-Fried used the misappropriated funds to amass wealth, power, and influence.
Bankman-Fried’s Defense Argues Good Faith
In response to the prosecution’s opening statement, Mark Cohen, the lawyer representing Bankman-Fried, emphasized that his client had acted in good faith and had not defrauded anyone.
Cohen argued that Bankman-Fried believed the loans to Alameda Research were permitted and were transparent and known within both companies. Cohen aimed to contextualize the cryptocurrency industry, portraying it as volatile and subject to rapid fluctuations.
Cohen portrayed Bankman-Fried as a diligent and hardworking individual with a background in traditional finance, countering the prosecution’s depiction of him as a “cartoon villain.” He highlighted the success of Alameda Research as a crypto hedge fund and positioned FTX as an innovative exchange offering various currencies and margin loans.
As the trial unfolds, the focus will remain on presenting evidence, witness testimonies, and the arguments the prosecution and defense put forth.
The outcome of this landmark case will have implications for Bankman-Fried and the cryptocurrency industry as a whole, potentially shaping future regulations and practices.
Featured image from Shutterstock, chart from TradingView.com