US Judge: Sam Bankman-Fried Attempted to Influence Witness via Encrypted Messenger App
Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, has allegedly tried to influence some potential witnesses of his trial via encrypted messaging software Signal.
Federal prosecutors said the disgraced crypto boss has reached out to the “current General Counsel of FTX US who may be a witness at trial,” according to a letter filed in Manhattan federal court Friday. The current council for FTX US is Ryne Miller, who was also a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis. Miller was not identified by name in the government filing.
Prosecutors said Bankman-Fried wrote to Miller via Signal on January 15. “I would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other,” he reportedly said in the message.
The move came after the new FTX management announced that they have recovered over $5 billion in cash and liquid assets that may be used to repay creditors. At the time, the exchange’s advisors said it is “not yet clear” how large the settlement fund for FTX creditors will be.
Aside from Miller, SBF has also been in contact with “other current and former FTX employees,” the filing said. US authorities claim SBF’s request suggests an effort to influence the witness’s testimony, and that his effort to improve his relationship with Miller “may itself constitute witness tampering.”
Citing fears of possible witness tampering, prosecutors have asked the court to ban SBF from using the messaging platform, saying it is essential in order to “prevent obstruction of justice.”
As reported, the US Department of Justice opposed FTX hiring Sullivan & Cromwell, the law firm currently tasked with the exchange’s investigation, earlier this month citing potential conflicts of interest. That is because Miller, general counsel of FTX US, previously worked at S&C for eight years. The DOJ said the investigation would place the law firm “in the conflicted position of investigating itself and its former partner.”
Prior to DOJ’s objection, a bipartisan group of four United States senators, including John Hickenlooper, Thom Tillis, Elizabeth Warren, and Cynthia Lummis, lashed out at S&C for almost the same reasons.
FTX and its group of crypto companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early November. Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of FTX, was later arrested in The Bahamas after US prosecutors formally filed criminal charges against him. He was eventually extradited to the US where he was released from jail after posting a $250m bond in a New York court.
SBF has been charged with eight criminal charges including wire fraud and conspiracy by misusing customer funds, to which he pled not guilty earlier this month. He is due in federal court in October.