Friday, July 19, 2024

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, is planning to testify at his criminal fraud trial in Manhattan, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

The lawyer, Mark Cohen, confirmed Mr. Bankman-Fried’s plans at a hearing with prosecutors and the judge overseeing the case, which was held on the last day of a nearly weeklong break in the trial. Mr. Bankman-Fried, 31, is likely to begin testifying on Thursday, after federal prosecutors call their final witness in the morning.

“Our client is going to be testifying,” Mr. Cohen said at the hearing.

Mr. Bankman-Fried is charged with orchestrating a sweeping scheme to steal as much as $10 billion in deposits from customers of FTX. Prosecutors say that the cryptocurrency mogul funneled the money into political contributions, real estate purchases and other lavish spending.

Mr. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to seven charges of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. If convicted, he could face what amounts to a life sentence.

Over the first three weeks of the trial, prosecutors have called a procession of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s close friends and colleagues, who have testified that the FTX founder lied to customers, investors and lenders about the exchange’s use of customer money.

At the hearing on Wednesday, Mr. Cohen said the defense was planning to call three witnesses in addition to Mr. Bankman-Fried. One is Joseph Pimbley, a financial services consultant, who is expected to testify abut the finances of FTX and Alameda Research, the crypto trading firm that borrowed billions of dollars from FTX customers. Mr. Bankman-Fried founded Alameda before he started FTX.

Mr. Cohen is also planning to call a Bahamian lawyer who was involved in Mr. Bankman-Fried’s case, as well as an expert on the preservation of corporate records.

Mr. Bankman-Fried is expected to testify after those witnesses.

Weeks after FTX imploded in November, Mr. Bankman-Fried was arrested at his penthouse apartment in the Bahamas, where the exchange was based. He was then extradited to the United States and placed under house arrest at his parents’ home in Northern California. In August, his bail was revoked after a judge ruled that he had tried to intimidate witnesses.

During the trial, Mr. Bankman-Fried has spent his nights at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where his lawyers say he has had only intermittent access to the computer files he needs to prepare for trial. In August, the lawyers said Mr. Bankman-Fried, who is vegan, was subsisting on a diet of bread, water and peanut butter.

Mr. Bankman-Fried has appeared in court every day of the trial, which began this month, wearing a suit purchased from a discount rack at Macy’s. His parents, the Stanford law professors Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried, have watched from the gallery, alongside other powerful legal figures, including Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan.

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