The founder of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX has pleaded not guilty to charges of cheating investors out of billions of dollars.
Wearing a blue suit, white shirt and spotted blue tie, the 30-year-old took to the stand at a federal court in Manhattan, accused of using customer deposits to purchase property, make huge political donations, and illegally support his hedge fund Alameda Research.
Asked how he pleaded to eight charges by US district judge Lewis Kaplan, the Californian’s lawyer simply replied “not guilty”.
Two of SBF’s colleagues – Caroline Ellison who headed up Alameda, and FTX co-founder Gary Wang – have already pleaded guilty to civil and criminal charges of conspiracy and fraud. Both have made agreements to fully cooperate with government investigations.
Bankman-Fried was freed on a $250m bond last month following extradition from his home in the Bahamas to his native US.
If convicted of all charges, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate could face a prison sentence adding up to 115 years.
Since 2019 he amassed an eye-watering net worth of $26 billion until a wave of suspicious withdrawals in November exposed a web of serious problems with the FTX platform and its ties to Alameda, leading to the sudden collapse of the massive exchange.
Investor funds evaporated with SBF’s own personal fortune as he appeared on a series of internet interviews apologising for the collapse while claiming he was left with just $100,000 in his bank account.
Earlier today, lawyers representing Bankman-Fried sent a letter to Judge Kaplan asking that the identities of two people who agreed to sign his $250m bond be kept secret, claiming they faced harassment.
Until his court appearance today, he was ordered to stay in his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California, and required to undergo drug and mental health counselling, and refrain from any business transactions that exceed $1,000.
A trial date has been set for October 2 2023.
The defendant faces eight criminal counts, including conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud.
Federal prosecutor Danielle Sassoon told the court she estimated a trial could take four weeks, adding that the government will now turn over many thousands of documents in evidence to defence lawyers.