Crypto itself may be in the dock at US trial

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Crypto itself may be in the dock at US trial

Tomorrow, US marshals will transfer Sam Bankman-Fried from a Brooklyn jail to the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse in Lower Manhattan.

The immediate agenda consists of selection of jurors to sit in judgement of the onetime crypto billionaire, charged with various counts of fraud, money laundering, and campaign finance offences in connection with the failure of the exchange FTX last November.

Crypto itself may be in the dock, along with Bankman-Fried, who has pleaded not guilty, over the course of the trial, which is expected to last about six weeks.

FTX, worth $32 billion at its peak, has become a symbol of the lawlessness associated with the digital assets market. And, with his slob chic vibe and commitment to 'effective altruism,' 31-year-old entrepreneur has come to epitomise crypto for many in the mainstream.

By shifting billions of dollars worth of FTX deposits to cover losses in his hedge fund, prosecutors said Bankman-Fried violated one of the bedrock laws in finance - never tap customer deposits to juice your own trading book.

Prosecutors are expected to try and prove that he did what he did, bolstered by testimony from several of Bankman-Fried's former associates, including his ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison.

The case has confirmed the suspicions of crypto critics that the sector is ripe for Ponzi schemes and stealing, and emboldened watchdogs like Gary Gensler, the chair of the US SEC, have been required to crack down on civil actions.

Although Bitcoin has rallied 60% since FTX filed for Bankruptcy on November 11, the token's trading volume has nosedived - in August, it dropped to a five-year low. The days when BTC attracted mainstream investors seem to be over, at least for now.

The market hasn't been spared of the downturn in decentralised finance. In fact, the deposits, or total value locked, of the sector is still about a quarter less than before FTX's downfall, at $38.7 billion.

If Bankman-Fried did nothing else, then he appears to have proven yet again that if something appears to be too good to be true, it probably is. What is unfortunate given the amount of doing good that Bankman-Fried vowed to do.

In 2022, Bankman-Fried was running his FTX-Alameda empire from a $13 million penthouse in the Bahamas. He surrounded himself with colleagues who shared the luxury work-life space in the tropics.

Bankman-Fried charmed celebrities such as renowned quarterback Tom Brady and his former wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who were energetic - and well- compensated - spokespersons for FTX. He landed Michael Lewis, the top-selling author of The Big Short and Moneyball, as his biographer.

Lewis, who is releasing his book on Bankman-Fried and FTX this week, said he watched in amazement as the'most famous people in the world' would gather around the rumpled entrepreneur. SBF was the young tycoon's initials - he was known simply as a tycoon.

Despite being a maths whiz who graduated from MIT, Bankman-Fried was merely a springboard to amassing enough wealth to tackle epochal challenges like pandemics and artificial intelligence. His chosen vehicle is EA, a philosophical and social movement designed to maximize impact for the common good.

At FTX's zenith, academics and intellectuals flew into the Bahamas to chat with Bankman-Fried and his Compatriots. DL News spoke to several individuals who were privy to these discussions.

The interest in genetics, he said, boiled down to a willingness to use gene editing to increase the odds of having kids who are happy, healthy, and smart.

'' You can have guilt-free meat, so you can have guilt-free meat,'' said the person, who asked for anonymity as a condition of talking about dealings with Bankman-Fried.

However, the interest did not translate into action. ''T have thought it was worth their time or money to actually do much on it,'' said Bankman-Fried.

The Future Fund, FTX's philanthropic arm, had $100 million invested in efforts in pandemic control, addressing the risks of AI, and other futuristic projects.

He said Bankman-Fried spoke of building a 'vaccine factory' in the Bahamas to address what he deemed an overly slow approval process by the US Food and Drug Administration.

These projects were aimed at safeguarding humanity's long-term future and were in line with EA's thinking.

A friend of Bankman-Fried's work lamented that his alleged misdeeds tarnished the EA.

He said his money wasn't his, but that it wasn't his. In August, the Justice Department accused him of using deposited funds from FTX customers to make $100 million in political campaign contributions in the run-up to the midterm elections in November.

The prosecutors said that their profile, and curry favour with candidates, had been smashed in an updated indictment last month.

Taking his place at the defendant's table Tuesday, Bankman-Fried will be the latest in a long line of bold-faced names who have faced justice in the federal court on Foley Square in downtown Manhattan.

Bernie Madoff, Ghislaine Maxwell, and Martha Stewart each passed through here on their way to guilty pleas or jury verdicts. Bankman-Fried's chances are that the media will be as hot as when he takes his turn.

Bankman-Fried, who has been incarcerated for the past two months after breaching the terms of his bail, faces the possibility he may not live outside the walls of criminal institutions for decades.

If convicted, he faces a 20-year prison sentence on each of the main counts in his indictment.