Connect with us

Published

on

Disgraced crypto entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of stealing billions of dollars from his customers.

He was the chief executive of FTX, which suddenly went bankrupt in November 2022 – leaving millions of users frozen out of their accounts and unable to make withdrawals.

The 32-year-old American could have faced up to 100 years behind bars – but last month, his lawyers argued such a sentence would have been “barbaric” and a five-year term would be more appropriate.

Initial reports said he had been sentenced to 20 years – but this has since been corrected to 25.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to jail Bankman-Fried for 40 to 50 years, arguing the public needed protecting from the fraudster and a harsh punishment would deter other criminals.

“The defendant victimised tens of thousands of people and companies, across several continents, over a period of multiple years,” prosecutors said in a court filing.

“He stole money from customers who entrusted it to him; he lied to investors; he sent fabricated documents to lenders; he pumped millions of dollars in illegal donations into our political system; and he bribed foreign officials. Each of these crimes is worthy of a lengthy sentence.”

More on Ftx

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp
Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Tap here

Prosecutors also said Bankman-Fried had cost customers, investors and lenders over $10bn (£7.9bn) by misappropriating funds to fuel his quest for influence and dominance in the new industry, and had illegally used money from FTX depositors to cover his expenses, which included purchasing luxury properties in the Caribbean, alleged bribes to Chinese officials and private planes.

At the sentencing hearing in Manhattan, Judge Lewis Kaplan said the businessman lied on the witness stand when he insisted he had no knowledge of customer funds being used this way.

The judge also described Bankman-Fried’s claim that victims will be paid back in full as “misleading and logically flawed”.

“A thief who takes his loot to Las Vegas and successfully bets the stolen money is not entitled to a discount on the sentence by using his Las Vegas winnings to pay back what he stole,” Judge Kaplan warned.

Crypto king’s jail term is end of an era

Sam Bankman-Fried was breathlessly described as a wunderkind – a boy wonder transforming the world of finance.

Renowned for his messy hair and unkempt appearance, he graced the covers of Forbes and Fortune, who pondered whether he could become the next Warren Buffett.

The 32-year-old was the founder of FTX, which had quickly become the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange – a place where investors could buy and sell digital assets like Bitcoin.

Star-studded adverts featuring the tennis player Naomi Osaka and the comedian Larry David added to its allure – with eye-watering sums spent on sponsorship deals.

But in November 2022, Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire came crashing down after it emerged that customer funds worth $10bn (£7.9bn) was missing.

Read the full analysis here

The judge said that the sentence reflected “a risk that this man will be in a position to do something very bad in the future”.

“And it’s not a trivial risk at all.”

He added that it was “for the purpose of disabling him to the extent that can appropriately be done for a significant period of time”.

Before he was sentenced, Mr Bankman-Fried apologised in a rambling statement.

FILE PHOTO: Indicted FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaves the United States Courthouse in New York City, U.S., July 26, 2023. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky/File Photo
Image:
Sam Bankman-Fried leaving court last July. Pic: Reuters

“A lot of people feel really let down. And they were very let down. And I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry about what happened at every stage,” he said.

“My useful life is probably over. It’s been over for a while now, from before my arrest.”

Judge Kaplan said he would advise the Federal Bureau of Prisons to send him to a medium-security prison or less near the San Francisco area because he’s unlikely to be a physical threat to other inmates or prison staff, and his autism and social awkwardness would make him vulnerable to other inmates in a high-security location.

Read more:
The meteoric rise and even sharper fall of Sam Bankman-Fried

Why industry may never recover from downfall of ‘crypto king’

It took just five-and-a-half hours for a jury in New York to convict him of two counts of fraud and five of conspiracy last November.

Three people from Bankman-Fried’s inner circle – including his former girlfriend Caroline Ellison – pleaded guilty to related crimes and testified at his trial.

Sam Bankman-Fried's colleague and on-off girlfriend Caroline Ellison testified against him. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Sam Bankman-Fried’s colleague and on-off girlfriend Caroline Ellison testified against him. Pic: Reuters

Bankman-Fried’s conviction followed a dramatic fall from grace from his time as chief executive of FTX – the second-largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world at one time – when he was worth billions of dollars on paper.

FTX allowed investors to buy dozens of virtual currencies, from Bitcoin to more obscure ones like Shiba Inu Coin.

FTX logo is seen in this illustration taken March 31, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
Image:
Pic: Reuters

Flush with billions of dollars of investors’ cash, Bankman-Fried rode a crest of success that included a Super Bowl advertisement and celebrity endorsements from stars like quarterback Tom Brady, basketball star Stephen Curry and comedian Larry David.

But after the collapse of cryptocurrency prices in 2022, Bankman-Fried tried to plug the holes in the balance sheet of FTX’s hedge fund affiliate, known as Alameda Research.

Bankman-Fried’s victims – an estimated 80,000 of whom are based in the UK – remain out of pocket, with some losing their life savings.

Prosecutors described his crimes as one of the biggest financial frauds in US history.

Continue Reading

US

Tram crash at Universal Studios Hollywood injures 15

Published

on

By

Tram crash at Universal Studios Hollywood injures 15

A tram crash at Universal Studios Hollywood has left 15 people injured.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department was called to the theme park shortly after 9pm local time on Saturday.

It said 15 people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries.

The crash occurred when the final car of one of the trams collided with a metal guardrail, which caused it to “tilt and eject multiple passengers”, the California Highway Patrol said.

The Highway Patrol said some of the injuries were “moderate” but did not specify how many.

The trams are used to take park visitors on behind-the-scenes tours of the sets where some of Universal’s biggest movies and TV shows were filmed.

Sheriff’s Lieutenant Maria Abal suggested the four-car tram may have experienced an issue with its brakes.

Alcohol and drugs were not considered as a factor, said the Highway Patrol, which is leading the investigation.

A Universal Studios spokesperson told the Associated Press there were “multiple minor injuries” but did not provide details on the accident.

Read more from Sky News:
Tory MP accused of misusing campaign funds quits party
Spice Girls reunite for special birthday

The tram route, called the World-Famous Studio Tour, features sets from films such as 1975 classic Jaws and Jordan Peele’s recent hit Nope.

The crash came as Universal Studios Hollywood prepared to mark the 60th anniversary of the tour, with celebrations set to begin on Friday.

Continue Reading

US

Crucial $60.8bn Ukraine aid package approved by US House of Representatives after months of deadlock

Published

on

By

Crucial .8bn Ukraine aid package approved by US House of Representatives after months of deadlock

The US House of Representatives has approved sending $60.8bn (£49bn) in foreign aid to Ukraine.

Democrats and Republicans joined together after months of deadlock over renewed American support to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion.

Representatives could be seen waving small Ukrainian flags as it became clear the package was going to pass.

Representatives wave Ukrainian flags
Image:
Representatives wave Ukrainian flags

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted to say he was “grateful” for the decision, which he said “keeps history on the right track”.

He said: “Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps to protect it.

“The vital US aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

‘Grateful’ Zelenskyy reacts to US aid

Representatives also approved bills to send foreign aid to Israel and provide humanitarian relief to Palestinians in Gaza, give security assistance to Taiwan and allies in the Indo-Pacific, and a measure containing several foreign policy proposals including a threat to ban Chinese-owned social media app TikTok.

The package will now go to the US Senate, where it is likely to be passed on Tuesday. President Joe Biden has then promised to sign it immediately.

“I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs,” Mr Biden said.

What aid package means for Ukraine after profound impact of delay

The impact of this American blockage has been profound.

I have had multiple conversations with diplomats and military officials in Washington DC and all have said the same thing: the situation for Ukraine is depressing, Russia has the upper hand and prospects for Kyiv, without more weapons, are bleak.

The Ukrainians have been running low on all weapons types, even small arms – bullets for their soldiers’ rifles.

Before the House of Representatives approved the $60.8bn aid package on Saturday, it had been more than 480 days since Congress last passed a bill allowing for American weapons to be sent to Ukraine.

There was a White House budgetary fudge earlier this year which freed up some more cash from an existing bill and allowed for some more weapons to be sent. But it wasn’t enough.

Read more of Mark Stone’s analysis here.

Bill will ‘further ruin’ Ukraine, Russia warns

Moscow said the passage of the bill would “further ruin” Ukraine and result in more deaths.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the TASS news agency a provision allowing Washington to confiscate seized Russian assets and transfer them to Ukraine for reconstruction would tarnish the image of the US.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Major Russian strike on Ukraine kills eight

‘Ukraine can and will win’

UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said the funding was “a vital step forward”.

“If Putin ever doubted the West’s resolve to back Ukraine, this shows our collective will is undimmed,” he tweeted.

“With support, Ukraine can and will win.”

But Donald Trump ally Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican representative who has opposed helping Ukraine in its war against Russia, said “people have been too obsessed with voting for foreign wars and the war industry”.

Speaking after the vote passed, she said: “This is the sellout of America today. When we had members of Congress in there waving the Ukrainian flag on the United States House of Representatives floor, while we’re doing nothing to secure our border, I think every American is going to be furious.”

Mr Biden first requested the funding in October, as Ukraine’s military supplies began to dwindle.

In February, Mr Zelenskyy urged Congress to pass the funding, saying if it did not “it will leave me wondering what world we are living in”.

Continue Reading

US

TikTok could be banned in US after House of Representatives passes bill

Published

on

By

TikTok could be banned in US after House of Representatives passes bill

TikTok could be banned in the US if the social media app’s Chinese owner doesn’t sell its stake after the House of Representatives voted in support of the measure.

The TikTok legislation has been included in a US foreign policy package, which has already seen representatives approve sending $60.8bn (£49bn) in foreign aid to Ukraine, security assistance for Taiwan and allies in the Indo-Pacific, and will likely see the approval of foreign aid funding for Ukraine and Israel.

Once approved, the package will then go to the US Senate, where it is likely to be passed on Tuesday. President Joe Biden has said he would sign the TikTok legislation once it reaches his desk.

If the bill becomes law, the owner of the popular video-sharing app will have nine months to find a buyer, with a possible three-month extension while a sale is in progress, or face a ban.

A previous bill passed by the House last month would have given owner ByteDance only six months to sell.

The company will likely try to challenge the law in court, arguing it would deprive the app’s millions of users of their First Amendment rights, which protect freedom of speech.

Such court challenges could significantly delay the timeline set out by Congress or block the law from coming into effect.

TikTok’s chief executive has appealed to US users directly to campaign to stop the bill.

“We will not stop fighting and advocating for you,” Shou Zi Chew said in a video posted on the platform last month that was directed at the app’s users.

“We will continue to do all we can, including exercising our legal rights, to protect this amazing platform that we have built with you.”

The FBI has warned TikTok owner ByteDance could share user data, such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers, with China’s authoritarian government.

TikTok has said it has never done that and would not do so if asked.

Read more on Sky News:
Home Office to pay TikTok influencers urging migrants not to cross Channel
How ‘TikTok idiots’ are disrupting police investigations

In 2022, Mr Biden banned the use of TikTok by the federal government’s nearly four million employees on devices owned by its agencies, with limited exceptions for law enforcement, national security and security research purposes.

The approved bill including the TikTok legislation would also allow the US to seize frozen Russian central bank assets to help rebuild Ukraine and impose sanctions on Iran, Russia and China, as well as criminal organisations that traffic the drug fentanyl.

Continue Reading

Trending