FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s preparations to be extradited to the US have hit an abrupt and confusing snag in a Bahamas courtroom.
Bankman-Fried said in court Monday that he was ready to waive his right to fight extradition to the US where he faces charges including wire fraud. However, his local lawyer, Jerone Roberts, said in the same hearing that he wasn’t aware of the plan, setting off confusion in the Nassau courtroom. Ultimately, the proceedings were adjourned, and Bankman-Fried was ordered to return to prison.
The chaotic scene is the latest twist in the high-stakes drama that has been playing out since Bankman-Fried was arrested last week at the request of US authorities. Although he said last week that he would fight extradition, Bankman-Fried has more recently indicated in private conversations that he was preparing to return to the US as soon Monday, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
Bankman-Fried’s change in attitude is in part tied to the expectation that he’ll be able to get bail in the US, according to the person, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.Play Video
Amid Monday’s confusion, the judge adjourned the proceedings and ushered the spectators out. In the cleared out courtroom, Bankman-Fried and his local lawyer Roberts appeared to convene a conference call. The next court date is set for Feb. 8, although one could be called sooner.
Bankman-Fried wore a blue suit and a white shirt to Monday’s proceedings, which played out in a courtroom packed with about 20 people, including several who appeared to work for the US government and members of the press. There was confusion from the start as Roberts, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, asked for clarification on the purpose of the hearing. A brief recess was called shortly after it began.
Former federal prosecutor Tim Howard said a US bail deal for Bankman-Fried is definitely a possibility. Willingly returning to the US would help calm fears that he’s a flight risk, though he’d still have other conditions to meet.
Before his arrest, in numerous interviews following FTX’s implosion last month, the 30-year-old denied knowingly committing fraud or breaking the law. Representatives for Bankman-Fried and the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which has been handling the case, declined to comment on Monday.
Since being denied bail in the Bahamas court last week, Bankman-Fried has been in a notorious correctional facility on the outskirts of Nassau known as Fox Hill.
FTX and scores of related companies declared bankruptcy last month after three years of frenetic growth. At its peak, the exchange was worth $32 billion.
Authorities in both the Bahamas and the US are continuing to probe Bankman-Fried’s involvement in FTX’s collapse last month. The firm was headquartered in the Bahamas.
(Updates with details on hearing throughout.)
–With assistance from Ava Benny-Morrison and Jim Wyss.
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