Bankman-Bahamas Fried’s Arrest Starts US Extradition Fight

Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams remarked at his press conference on charges against Bahamas-based FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried that “you may perpetrate fraud in shorts and t-shirts in the sun.” Williams did not address how US authorities will bring Bankman-Fried back from his tropical location to face the eight-count indictment unsealed Tuesday in New York federal court.

Bankman-Fried told a Bahamian judge at his arraignment Tuesday that he would not relinquish his right to an extradition hearing. A defence counsel indicated Bankman-Fried will fight extradition to the US.

He is accused of misappropriating billions of FTX customers’ funds for personal use and dangerous bets through sibling trading business Alameda Research. Williams dubbed the alleged plot “one of the largest financial frauds in American history” on Tuesday.

Bankman-Fried has repeatedly denied fraud. On Tuesday, FTX founder’s New York lawyer Mark Cohen said his client is “reviewing the charges with his legal team and examining all of his legal alternatives.”

Williams did not comment on his office’s efforts to extradite Bankman-Fried on Tuesday.

Bankman-fried’s Arrest In Bahamas Sets Up Us Extradition Fight
source: bloomberg.

Bankman-Fried may delay extradition if he fights. High-profile extradition cases have lasted years. Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is fighting extradition from the UK on mental-health grounds.

The US authorities detained Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Canada in 2018 for plotting to evade Iran sanctions. Until September 2021, she battled extradition to the US.

Bankman-Fried lacked Meng’s political and diplomatic aspects. The Chinese authorities protested her arrest and detained two Canadians living in China, who were freed shortly after her. Her legal arguments extended the case. She argued that violating US sanctions was permissible in Canada since the US-Canada extradition treaty requires that the charged violation be a criminal in both countries.

Lawyers can closely analyse statutes to distinguish between two nations’ crime definitions under the US-Bahamas extradition treaty’s “double criminality” criterion.

Czech-born billionaire Viktor Kozeny avoided extradition from the Bahamas on US claims that he bribed Azerbaijani authorities to buy the country’s state oil company. A local court ruled that Kozeny’s alleged bribery occurred before the Bahamas joined the Inter American Convention Against Corruption, hence they weren’t crimes.

Houston extradition lawyer Douglas McNabb said extradition law can be complicated. The Bahamas has many such cases, mostly involving drug traffickers.

Eight drug suspects from the Bahamas were extradited to Florida in 2015 after 11 years. They argued against extradition because one judge had a statutory retirement age.

Washington lawyer Bruce Zagaris said the Bahamas submits final appeals to the Privy Council in London, which can delay extraditions. Wealthy defendants fight to the end.

Zagaris estimated five, six, or seven years for all levels.

Michael Zweiback, a Los Angeles criminal defence lawyer with extradition experience, said Bankman-Fried may return to the US. He stated many Americans prefer home to overseas prison.

Zweiback said Bankman-Fried may not enjoy his Bahamas penthouse while fighting extradition.

Bankman-Fried was denied $250,000 cash bail by a Bahamian judge on Tuesday because he was a flight risk. Feb. 8 was the extradition hearing.

“He can waive extradition and of course he will be thrown in handcuffs and put on a plane with a US Marshals Service escort and brought to La Guardia or JFK Airport and hauled immediately to the SDNY courthouse.” Zweiback mentioned Manhattan federal court.

He can sign extradition paperwork tomorrow and arrive in a week.

Katanga Johnson, David Voreacos, and Bob Van Voris assisted.

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