Sam Bankman-Fried in talks to resolve bail dispute, lawyer says

Sam Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty and is under house arrest at his parents’ California home. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK – FTX cryptocurrency exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried is in talks with United States prosecutors to resolve a dispute over his bail conditions, his lawyer said on Thursday.

The judge overseeing Bankman-Fried’s criminal fraud case in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday temporarily barred the 30-year-old former billionaire from contacting employees of FTX or his Alameda Research hedge fund, after prosecutors raised concerns that he might tamper with witnesses.

His lawyers had previously countered that he had contacted current executives at the now-bankrupt exchange to offer “assistance” and not to interfere, and so the additional bail condition was not needed.

Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty and is under house arrest at his parents’ California home.

In a court filing, defence lawyer Mark Cohen asked US District Judge Lewis Kaplan to postpone a Feb 7 hearing on the matter, as well as a Feb 2 deadline to explain why he should be able to access and transfer cryptocurrency before trial.

“The parties would like to continue these discussions, which we are optimistic will lead to an agreement between the parties in the next few days and eliminate the need for further litigation,” Mr Cohen wrote, noting that prosecutors consented to the request.

A spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan declined to comment.

Once worth an estimated US$26 billion (S$34 billion), Bankman-Fried was arrested in December after FTX collapsed.

Prosecutors have said he looted billions of dollars in FTX customer funds to plug losses at Alameda. Two former colleagues have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors.

Bankman-Fried has acknowledged risk management failures, but said FTX collapsed because of a liquidity crunch and that he did not steal funds.

A trial is scheduled for Oct 2.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.