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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.

Larry David appeared in an advert for FTX during the Super Bowl in 2022
Larry David appeared in an advert for FTX during the Super Bowl in 2022

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.

A year later, a jury convicted the fallen entrepreneur of fraud and money laundering after just five hours of deliberations – based on evidence from close colleagues who had turned against him.

Now, “SBF” is beginning a lengthy prison sentence of 25 years for what prosecutors have described as “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history”.

His punishment may be little comfort to five million FTX customers who were suddenly locked out of their accounts as the company entered bankruptcy – and are yet to receive any compensation.

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November: ‘Crypto king’ guilty of fraud

An estimated 80,000 of Bankman-Fried’s victims were based in the UK. Some of them had millions of pounds tied up in the company after entrusting him with their life savings.

While slick marketing campaigns had presented FTX as a safe way to invest in volatile cryptocurrencies, the reality behind the scenes couldn’t have been more different.

Secret back doors had been established that allowed SBF’s other company, Alameda Research, to access money belonging to FTX customers and make risky bets without their knowledge.

Meanwhile, executives were spending lavishly. Private jets ferried Amazon orders from Miami to the firm’s headquarters in the Bahamas, £12m was spent on luxury hotel stays in just nine months, and employees in the US were allowed to order £160 of food deliveries each a day.

The fallout from FTX’s demise also reaches as far as the White House. Bankman-Fried was one of the largest donors to Joe Biden’s campaign in 2020, with the president subsequently facing pressure to return millions of dollars.

Read more:
Who is Sam Bankman-Fried?
SBF ‘wanted to be US president’

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

A new chief executive has been tasked with untangling where all the money went. Soon after FTX went under, he said: “Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls.”

Unusually, and thankfully, FTX victims are expected to be compensated in full eventually – kind of.

The payouts they receive will be based on what cryptocurrencies were worth in November 2022. But Bitcoin was trading at £16,000 back then and is now worth £55,500.

Bizarre plans to bring FTX out of bankruptcy and reopen the exchange have also been abandoned.

Other entrepreneurs in this space – who had loyal, cult-like followings and huge profiles – are also facing jail time.

Changpeng Zhao has pleaded guilty to money laundering charges. Reuters
Changpeng Zhao has pleaded guilty to money laundering charges. Pic: Reuters

Changpeng Zhao, who ran the world’s biggest crypto exchange Binance, sensationally resigned last year after pleading guilty to money laundering violations in the US.

His company had allowed individuals in Syria, Iran and Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine to evade economic sanctions – and allegedly made it easy for terrorists and criminals to move money.

The billionaire faces jail time when he is sentenced next month.

Do Kwon created two cryptocurrencies that spectacularly collapsed in May 2022, with investors losing an estimated $40bn (£31.7bn) in a matter of days.

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He later went on the run but was captured in Montenegro last year after attempting to fly to Dubai using a fake passport.

A civil fraud trial against Kwon and his company Terraform Labs began this week, with prosecutors warning: “Terra was a fraud, a house of cards, and when it collapsed, investors nearly lost everything.”

Do Kwon created two cryptocurrencies that lost tens of billions of dollars - then went on the run. Pic: Reuters
Do Kwon created two cryptocurrencies that lost tens of billions of dollars – then went on the run. Pic: Reuters

In a way, Bankman-Fried’s sentence marks the end of an era for crypto – when extravagant excesses and a lack of regulatory oversight were the norm.

Bitcoin’s recent gains have been driven by regulated products that allow investors to gain exposure to the cryptocurrency’s price without owning it directly.

And many of these products are offered by established, traditional finance firms like BlackRock, which is the world’s largest asset management company.

A damning report described the rise and fall of FTX as a tale of “hubris, incompetence and greed” – with Bankman-Fried and his inner circle showing little regard for the financial wellbeing of his customers.

Millions of people had their fingers burned, and many will be put off from ever investing in cryptocurrencies again.

But while the industry has learned some lessons, the crypto market’s rapid surge in recent months mean there’s a real risk of another bubble forming – and new bad actors taking advantage of investors looking for a piece of the action.

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Tram crash at Universal Studios Hollywood injures 15




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.

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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.

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




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
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.”

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‘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.

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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”.

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




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:
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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.

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