FTX fraud battle sees defence begin case for Sam Bankman-Fried, after damning prosecution witnesses testimony
FTX founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried is expected to take to the stand, as his defence case begins after 12 days of prosecution witness testimony.
Reuters reported that defence lawyers began their case at the fraud trial on Thursday, after former colleagues had testified that Bankman-Fried directed them to divert customer funds to his hedge fund and lie to investors and lenders.
Bankman-Fried has already denied charges of fraud, money-laundering and stealing funds from FTX customers for his own use, including making property purchases and political donations.
According to Reuters, the last prosecution witness had been FBI agent Marc Troiano.
Troiano testified about Bankman-Fried’s use of the encrpyted messaging application Signal when the trial resumed on Thursday morning in federal court in Manhattan after a week-long break.
Troiano reportedly testified that Signal groups that Bankman-Fried was in with colleagues were often set to delete messages automatically.
Reuters reported that jurors were shown screenshots from a phone belonging to Caroline Ellison, the former chief executive of Bankman-Fried’s Alameda Research hedge fund and his on-and-off girlfriend.
Ellison testified earlier in the trial that Bankman-Fried had directed employees to “be careful with what we put in writing, and not put into writing something that could get us into legal trouble.”
Prior to the defence lawyers presenting their case, outside the court Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, Christian Everdell, was quoted by Reuters as telling that Bankman-Fried is expected to testify in his own defence.
The defence case is expected to begin with testimony from two witnesses, namely Krystal Rolle, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer in the Bahamas, and database expert Joseph Pimbley.
Reuters noted that Bankman-Fried taking the stand is a risky move that would give US prosecutors the opportunity to cross-examine the 31-year-old former crypto billionaire.
Bankman-Fried is to take to the stand to deliver direct testimony that could last close to five hours.
According to Reuters, after the prosecution rested its case, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan had denied a defence request to acquit Bankman-Fried before the case goes to the jury.
Defence lawyer Mark Cohen had reportedly argued that prosecutors had not set forth “viable legal theories” of wire fraud, which prosecutor Nicolas Roos disputed.
Judge Kaplan said reportedly some of Bankman-Fried’s testimony would take place outside the jury’s presence so he can decide whether it is admissible as evidence.