Sam Bankman-Fried to face intense cross-examination

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried is bracing for a critical juncture in his ongoing trial as he returns to the witness stand on Monday, facing intensive cross-examination from prosecutors challenging his denial of stealing billions of dollars in customer funds during the collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange.

Bankman-Fried is set to answer probing questions from his defence lawyer, Mark Cohen, regarding the events of November 2022 when FTX witnessed a wave of customer withdrawals, ultimately leading to its collapse. The prosecution alleges that Bankman-Fried orchestrated misleading messages on social media to deceive customers about FTX’s stability, attempting to halt a mass withdrawal.

Earlier in the trial, three of Bankman-Fried’s former close associates, who pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution, claimed that he either posted or instructed others to post these misleading messages. Despite his admission to mistakes that adversely affected FTX’s customers and employees, Bankman-Fried vehemently denies any intention to embezzle customer funds.

Bankman-Fried, facing two counts of fraud and five counts of conspiracy, risks potential decades in prison if convicted. Prosecutors contend that he misappropriated FTX funds to support his hedge fund, Alameda Research, engage in speculative ventures, and contribute to U.S. political campaigns.

His decision to testify in his defence, although risky, is seen as a strategic move to counter the claims made by the cooperating witnesses. Legal experts suggest Bankman-Fried viewed this as his best opportunity to refute the allegations and strengthen his case.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan has indicated that jury deliberations could commence by Thursday or Friday, marking a crucial phase in the trial.