October 3, 2023 at 11:18 GMTModified date: October 3, 2023 at 11:18 GMT
October 3, 2023 at 11:18 GMT

FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried trial: All you need to know

The much-anticipated Sam Bankman-Fried trial starts today, marking the beginning of one of the biggest court cases in crypto history.

FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried trial: All you need to know

The much-anticipated Sam Bankman-Fried trial starts today, marking the beginning of one of the biggest court cases in crypto history.

Once hailed as a prominent figure in the crypto world, the former FTX founder now stands accused of wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering. He allegedly misled the exchange’s customers and defrauded lenders associated with his cryptocurrency hedge fund, Alameda Research.

Last December, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District in New York charged Bankman-Fried with eight criminal counts, largely centered around fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

He has entered a not guilty plea for the seven charges he faces today. If convicted on all counts, he could be jailed for a maximum of 110 years.

When does the SBF trial start?

The SBF trial date is scheduled to start on 3 October with jury selection at a federal court in downtown Manhattan. The attorneys involved anticipate that this process will wrap up within a day. 

Opening statements are expected to commence either by the end of the day or the following morning. The trial’s duration is projected to be between five to six weeks.

Who will be involved in the Sam Bankman-Fried trial?

Bankman-Fried has chosen Mark S. Cohen for his defence, a renowned white-collar criminal lawyer with prior experience as a federal prosecutor. Cohen is supported by Christian Everdell, who defended Ghislaine Maxwell in her sex trafficking trial and contributed to the prosecution of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán.

On the other side, eight prosecutors are appointed to the case, led by Danielle Sassoon and Nicholas Roos. Sassoon has a past as a former US Supreme Court law clerk, while Roos is also handling the insider trading case against billionaire Joe Lewis.

Kaplan is the judge for the case. He was appointed by former President Bill Clinton and familiar with high-profile cases, including trials facing Prince Andrew and the Gambino crime family

Who are the witnesses?

The prosecution is set to make its argument first. Caroline Elison is expected to be the star witness supporting their case. Former head of Alameda Research, she was previously romantically involved with SBF. 

She later pleaded guilty to fraud charges in December and started cooperating with investigators. 

Additionally, the prosecution aims to introduce testimonies from FTX customers and investors impacted by the company’s downfall last November. One of the witnesses, an unnamed Ukrainian citizen termed ‘FTX-Customer 1’, is expected to testify on the significant losses he incurred after entrusting his life savings to FTX.

What is SBF’s defence?

Bankman-Fried’s stance on the charges has been clear since his arrest. He perceives himself as a fledgling businessman who made errors but never intentionally committed fraud. 

Court filings suggest that his defence might invoke an “advice of counsel” argument, implying that Bankman-Fried was under the impression that his actions were lawful based on guidance from FTX’s lawyers

Personal notes by Bankman-Fried, disclosed by the New York Times, directly blame Ellison for Alameda’s losses.

Will the SBF trial be televised?

It is unlikely that viewers will be able to watch the trial from home. New York is one of the only US states to prohibit the use of cameras in courtrooms. 

However, there’s a push from some lawmakers to amend this rule, especially in light of recent high-profile cases like the trial against Donald Trump. 

SBF’s 2024 charges

In addition to the ongoing trial, Bankman-Fried is slated for another trial in March 2024, facing five more counts. These charges relate to alleged fraud involving FTX customers and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, among others. 

In one specific example, the indictment cites an alleged bribe intended to influence Chinese officials to release over $1billion in cryptocurrency from frozen Alameda trading accounts. 

Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to these subsequent charges as well.