The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has confirmed its plans to call former FTX customers, investors, and staff as witnesses in the forthcoming trial of Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), the co-founder of the now-defunct FTX exchange. The former FTX boss faces a statutory maximum of 110 years of jail time if found guilty of the seven counts of alleged fraud-related offenses.
On Saturday, September 30, the DOJ submitted a letter motion “in limine” describing the witnesses it plans to summon during the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried. According to the court document, the government intends to call FTX customers who deposited funds on the platform, FTX investors who purchased shares in the crypto company, and certain “cooperating witnesses” who have pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit fraud with the defendant.
The DOJ added in the letter:
In each of these cases, the anticipated testimony about how the witnesses understood their relationship with the defendant and his companies, and their interpretation of statements made by the defendant and his agents, is directly relevant to the issues in dispute at trial, and is probative of how reasonable persons would have interpreted and understood representations made by the defendant regarding FTX’s treatment of customer assets and other issues.
It is worth noting that the letter did not identify any potential witnesses or mention the number of witnesses the government intends to summon. However, the prosecution did suggest – in a second letter – that witnesses are likely to testify for less than 30 minutes each and will involve “minimal, if any, exhibits.”
A few members of the FTX team, including the Chief Technology Officer and head of Engineering, have pleaded guilty to some fraud-related charges and are expected to testify in the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried. Although another top FTX executive, Ryan Salame, recently took a guilty plea, whether he will be called to testify against his former boss remains to be seen.
Caroline Ellison, former Alameda Research CEO and SBF’s ex-romantic partner, is reportedly also a witness after pleading guilty to her involvement in Sam Bankman-Fried’s alleged offenses.
Ukrainian Witness To Testify Via Video Conference? In a second motion letter on Saturday, the DOJ made a request on behalf of one of the prospective customer witnesses (referred to as FTX Customer -1). The DOJ described the witness as a young Ukrainian male who lost a substantial portion of his life savings that he deposited on FTX following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
According to the court filing, the former FTX customer would need the “express permission” of the Ukrainian government to travel to the US due to the ongoing war in his country. The DOJ highlighted that it would take at least three days to travel in each direction – due to the absence of international flights to and from Ukraine – even if the prospective witness received permission to travel.
As a result of these circumstances, the DOJ asked the judge to allow the former customer to testify via “two-way video teleconference.” The DOJ intends to arrange for the video conference testimony to occur at a location where a US official – in coordination with Ukrainian officials – can oversee the testimony.
The DOJ noted that, despite issues like varying time changes, travel delays, and significant costs, the government is still making arrangements for some overseas FTX customers to travel to testify. “However, FTX Customer-1, in particular, has additional logistical and safety concerns that make foreign travel effectively impossible even if all other conditions were met,” the DOJ added.
Sam Bankman-Fried will commence his court trial on Wednesday, October 3, with the jury selection process the first item on the trial schedule.
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