FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried was charged by the Justice Department in a superseding indictment on Tuesday of allegedly paying millions of dollars of bribes to a member of the Chinese communist government.
Several companies controlled by Bankman-Fried filed for bankruptcy at the end of last year after customers and investors learned that FTX had improperly commingled funds with sister trading company Alameda Research.
Bankman-Fried “authorized and directed a bribe of at least $40 million to one or more Chinese government officials,” the new indictment said. “The purpose of the bribe was to influence and induce one or more Chinese government officials to unfreeze certain Alameda trading accounts containing over $1 billion in cryptocurrency, which had been frozen by Chinese authorities.”
Court documents said that Bankman-Fried and others sought to regain access to the assets to “fund additional Alameda trading activity, in order to assist BANKMAN-FRIED and Alameda in obtaining and retaining business.”
The new criminal charge comes in addition to 12 other criminal charges that the 31-year-old already faces in the case.
The DOJ initially charged Bankman-Fried with eight alleged crimes back in December, including two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, one count of conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, one count conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and commit campaign finance violations.
In February, the DOJ returned a superseding indictment charging Bankman-Fried with four additional crimes, including conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, securities fraud, and fraud in the connection of the purpose or sale of a derivative.
If convicted on all counts, Bankman-Fried faces more than 150 years behind bars.
Bankman-Fried donated $39 million primarily to Democratic nominees and political action committees ahead of the 2022 midterm elections after emerging as the second-largest donor for the Biden campaign in the 2020 cycle. He was granted four meetings at the White House with senior advisers in the months before his companies filed for bankruptcy.
Beyond using the customer funds to enrich himself, acquire luxury real estate in the Bahamas, and influence the political system, Bankman-Fried donated millions to various media outlets through a nonprofit organization called Building a Stronger Future, which he ran with the help of his brother, Gabe Bankman-Fried, a former Democratic congressional staffer and the director of Guarding Against Pandemics. Several media outlets ran favorable coverage for Bankman-Fried in the days after his empire imploded. The New York Times, for instance, posited in one article that the alleged fraudster merely had “ambitions” that “exceeded his grasp.”
Ben Zeisloft contributed to this report.