© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Sam Bankman-Fried, who founded and led FTX until a liquidity crunch forced the cryptocurrency exchange to declare bankruptcy, is escorted out of the Magistrate Court building after his arrest in Nassau, Bahamas December 13, 2022. REUTERS/Dant
By Jared Higgs, Luc Cohen and Jasper Ward
NASSAU, Bahamas/NEW YORK (Reuters) -A defense lawyer for Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of now-bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, told a magistrate judge in the Bahamas on Monday that the former billionaire was not yet ready to agree to be extradited to the United States.
Bankman-Fried has seen an affidavit laying out the charges against him, but has not yet read the indictment filed last week in Manhattan federal court accusing him of stealing billions of dollars in customer deposits to plug losses at his crypto hedge fund, Alameda Research, said the lawyer, Jerone Roberts.
Roberts’ statement came at a two-hour hearing in Nassau before Magistrate Shaka Serville. When the hearing concluded, Bankman-Fried was given the chance to speak on the phone with his U.S. defense lawyer with Roberts present. No further court date was set.
“I can only be moved by Mr. Bankman-Fried, and he has not moved me,” Serville said.
Bankman-Fried, dressed in a dark blue jacket and an untucked white shirt, spoke only to greet the judge and confirm he would speak with his U.S. counsel. At one point during the hearing, he leaned back with his eyes closed and appeared to be awakened by a court official.
After the hearing, Bankman-Fried was remanded back to the custody of the Bahamas’ Department of Corrections. He departed the courthouse in a black van marked ‘Corrections,’ carrying a manila folder containing papers, a Reuters witness said.
Bankman-Fried was arrested on Monday of last week in the Bahamas – where he lives and where FTX is based – after federal prosecutors in Manhattan accused him of misleading lenders and investors, conspiring to launder money and violating U.S. campaign finance laws.
Bankman-Fried initially had said he would fight extradition, but a source had told Reuters on Saturday that Bankman-Fried would return to court to reverse his decision.
Roberts initially told Serville that he did not know why Bankman-Fried was brought to court on Monday morning. Following a recess, the lawyer said that Bankman-Fried wanted to see the indictment before consenting to extradition.
Mark Cohen, a U.S. lawyer who represents Bankman-Fried, did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and a spokesperson for Bankman-Fried also did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
Bankman-Fried has acknowledged risk-management failures at FTX but said he does not believe he has criminal liability.
The 30-year-old crypto mogul rode a boom in the value of bitcoin and other digital assets to become a billionaire several times over and an influential political donor in the United States, until FTX collapsed in early November after a wave of withdrawals. The exchange declared bankruptcy on Nov. 11.