By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Sam Bankman-Fried, who has long denied stealing from customers of his FTX cryptocurrency exchange, on Monday said prosecutors charged him with “troubling” haste and asked a U.S. judge to throw out 10 of the 13 criminal counts against him.
In a filing in Manhattan federal court, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers said now-bankrupt FTX was far from the only cryptocurrency company to collapse during a broad market crash in 2022, and that prosecutors hastily charged their client in a “rush to judgment.”
“Rather than wait for traditional civil and regulatory processes following their ordinary course to address the situation, the Government jumped in with both feet, improperly seeking to turn these civil and regulatory issues into federal crimes,” his lawyers wrote.
Bankman-Fried, a 31-year-old former billionaire, rode a boom in bitcoin and other digital assets to accumulate an estimated net worth of $26 billion, and became an influential political and philanthropic donor before FTX declared bankruptcy in November.
He has pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy.
The exchange imploded after a flurry of customer withdrawals in the wake of reports it had commingled assets with Alameda Research, Bankman-Fried’s crypto-focused hedge fund.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Bankman-Fried misled FTX investors and lenders, and stole billions of dollars in customer funds to plug losses at Alameda, buy real estate, and make political contributions through an illegal straw-donor scheme. They have also charged him with bribing Chinese officials.
Ahead of a scheduled Oct. 2 trial, his lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan to order prosecutors to turn over any documents in FTX’s possession that could helpful the defense, arguing prosecutors were only asking the company for information that helps its case.
“The FTX Debtors have worked so extensively with the Government, and are so enmeshed in the investigation, analysis, and strategy of the Government’s case, that they must be considered part of the ‘prosecution team’,” his lawyers wrote.
Representatives of FTX’s current leadership did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan declined to comment.
Prosecutors have until May 29 to respond to Bankman-Fried’s dismissal request, and Kaplan will hear arguments on June 15.
Bankman-Fried has acknowledged that FTX had inadequate risk management but denies stealing funds, and has sought to distance himself from FTX’s day-to-day operations.
Three onetime close associates – former Alameda co-chief executive Caroline Ellison, former FTX technology chief Gary Wang, and former FTX engineering chief Nishad Singh – have all pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
In pleading guilty, Singh admitted to making political donations in his own name that were funded in part by transfers from Alameda.
But Bankman-Fried’s lawyers said on Monday that the donations made by Singh, referred to as CC-1 in prosecutors’ charging documents against their client, did not actually violate election laws.
“The campaign finance allegations reveal, yet again, the consequences of the Government’s rush to indict Mr. Bankman-Fried,” his lawyers wrote.
Bankman-Fried has largely been confined to his parents’ home since his December arrest in the Bahamas, where he had lived and where FTX was based. He was extradited to the United States just over a week after his arrest.
His parents, who live in Palo Alto, California, are Stanford University law professors and co-signed his $250 million bond.
In their court papers on Monday, his lawyers said the campaign finance charge should be dismissed because it was not included on the surrender warrant signed by the Bahamas’ foreign affairs minister ahead of Bankman-Fried’s extradition, and that other charges including the bribery accusation were improperly brought after he was extradited.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)