Sam Bankman-Fried Charged in Chinese Bribery Scheme

March 28, 2023

Disgraced crypto kingpin Sam Bankman-Fried bribed Chinese officials to unfreeze his cryptocurrency firm’s accounts in China, according to an indictment released Tuesday.

Bankman-Fried paid $40 million in cryptocurrency to the officials in November 2021, federal prosecutors in Manhattan say. Chinese authorities had shuttered the accounts earlier that year as part of an investigation into a trading partner of Alameda Research, one of Bankman-Fried’s firms. The bribe payment worked, according to prosecutors, who said the Alameda trading accounts were reinstated.

Prosecutors slapped 12 additional charges on Bankman-Fried on Tuesday, including conspiracy to violate anti-bribery statutes for the payment to China. He was indicted in December on eight counts of money laundering, fraud, and illegal campaign donations. Prosecutors added four additional charges last month, after one of Bankman-Fried’s former colleagues struck a plea deal with prosecutors.

Bankman-Fried had a history of using his companies as piggy banks to influence regulators. Bankman-Fried paid tens of millions of dollars to political candidates, largely Democrats, in order to "improve his personal standing in Washington, D.C." and "curry favor" with candidates who could help pass legislation to help his companies. He used other executives at his companies to donate millions of dollars more to Republican candidates in order to build bipartisan support in Washington.

Bankman-Fried’s donations opened doors for him in Washington. He visited the White House four times last year, meeting with top aides to President Joe Biden in order to discuss regulation of the crypto industry, the Washington Free Beacon reported. Bankman-Fried gave $5 million to a pro-Biden political action committee in 2020, and said in June 2022 that he might give another $1 billion to support Democrats in the midterms.

Bankman-Fried donated heavily to Senate and House members who oversee the crypto industry. He gave more than $300,000 in donations to members of the House Financial Services Committee, which held hearings in 2021 and 2022 on the crypto industry, the Free Beacon reported. Bankman-Fried was photographed last year with Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee.