Sam Bankman-Fried to return to US after dropping extradition fight

Nassau, Bahamas

Extradition proceedings for FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried appeared to be stalled as his Bahamian attorney and local prosecutors argued bitterly in court on Monday.

Prosecutors indicated there had been an agreement with Bankman-Fried’s US attorneys to allow his extradition to the United States to face federal charges. But Bankman-Fried’s Bahamian attorney, Jerone Roberts, said he himself had not been part of that agreement.

Roberts claimed prosecutors wouldn’t share the US indictment with him, and he should not have to “fish on the internet” for it. In response, prosecutor Franklyn Williams dismissed Roberts’ accusation, saying that it was “not to be believed.”

Bankman-Fried was expected to drop his extradition fight, clearing a significant hurdle to return him to US soil to be prosecuted on multiple charges of fraud and conspiracy.

But Monday’s hearing left observers in the dark about what happens next.

At the end of the hearing, the frustrated magistrate overseeing the case cleared the courtroom so that Bankman-Fried could call his US attorneys with his Bahamian attorney present.

Bankman-Fried was then returned to the Bahamian prison where he has been held for the past week. No future court date was set at Monday’s hearing.

His US legal team didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Earlier in the day, a representative for his lawyers declined to give specifics about the timeline, saying it was “tough to give specifics while relying on the Bahamian courts.”

Bankman-Fried had initially planned to fight efforts to return him to the United States. But after a week in Nassau’s notorious Fox Hill prison, he appears less interested in keeping up what would have likely been a years-long battle to avoid extradition.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and former CEO of crypto currency exchange FTX, is escorted into the Magistrate Court building in Nassau, Bahamas December 19, 2022.

The US State Department reported that conditions at Fox Hill, the Bahamian prison where Bankman-Fried has stayed since his arrest last Monday, are harsh. The report criticized the prison for its overcrowding, poor nutrition and inadequate sanitation and medical care. Crowded cells often lack mattresses and were “infested with rats, maggots, and insects,” according to the 2021 report.

Bankman-Fried is expected to again request bail once he is in US custody. If denied bail, he would be held at a federal detention center in Brooklyn, New York. Inmates, lawyers and human rights advocates say the conditions inside that facility, which mostly houses pre-trial defendants who are presumed innocent, are also inhumane, citing overcrowding, frequent loss of heating and poor sanitary conditions overall.

At the Monday hearing, tensions between Bankman-Fried’s lawyer and Bahamian government prosecutors began to spill over.

Bankman-Fried’s attroney, Jerone Roberts, told the court he had not been advised able to speak with his client.

“Things are moving prematurely and without any involvement from me,” Roberts said.

Bahamian prosecutors accused Roberts of using “sharp tactics.”

The magistrate hearing the case, Shaka Serville, finally cleared the courtroom so Bankman-Fried could speak with his attorneys in private.

Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old former crypto celebrity, was arrested a week ago at his luxury residence in the Bahamas. Federal prosecutors in New York charged him with eight counts of wire fraud and conspiracy charges, alleging he defrauded customers and investors in FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange he founded in 2019.

In a series of media interviews since FTX filed for bankruptcy last month, Bankman-Fried has admitted to managerial mistakes while denying that he knowingly defrauded customers or investors.

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