Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried charged for allegedly bribing Chinese officials

U.S. prosecutors today filed a superseding indictment against former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried alleging he bribed Chinese officials.

According to court filings from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, “in or about 2021,” Bankman-Fried “authorized and directed a bribe of at least $40 million to one or more Chinese government officials.”

Why would he want to spend so much to buy influence with officials in a country where crypto is legally restricted? Per the same filing, the “purpose of the bribe was to influence and induce one or more Chinese officials to unfreeze certain Alameda trading accounts containing over $1 billion in cryptocurrency” that had been frozen by the country.

Given the fraught geopolitical climate between the United States and China, TechCrunch doubts that this particular bit of the case will serve to endear the former entrepreneur to his government.

This news comes a day after the U.S. government took action against Binance founder Changpeng Zhao. Zhao and several other corporate leaders at the world’s largest crypto exchange are being sued by the U.S. Commodity Futures and Trading Commission.

The federal government has been on something of a roll when it comes to taking legal action against leading, or formerly leading, crypto exchanges and companies. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) served U.S.-based crypto exchange Coinbase with a Wells notice recently, though the precise outlines of the SEC’s complaint are not yet clear. The SEC also sued Justin Sun, the founder of Tron, last week on allegations of orchestrating “unregistered offer and sale, manipulative trading and unlawful touting of crypto asset securities.”

The SEC said it was suing Sun, the Tron foundation, the BitTorrent Foundation and BitTorrent (now referred to as Rainberry) over the sale of two tokens: TRON, or TRX, and BitTorrent, or BTT. Both TRX and BTT were referred to as unregistered crypto asset securities by the SEC, stoking the debate on whether cryptocurrencies are in fact securities.

A plethora of U.S.-based charges and suits have hit the crypto industry, and this latest filing may point to bigger legal issues beyond the States’ borders, raising the specter of other international enforcement actions against crypto-focused companies that operate either in a floating capacity or are domiciled outside of their founder’s home market.

While Bankman-Fried and Zhao’s situations are different, they both point to the lack of operational transparency at both organizations. Given that new information surrounding Bankman-Fried is still coming out, there’s a chance that the Binance situation will also continue to develop in the coming weeks, months — and maybe even years.

As these suits play out, it’ll be interesting to see how the courts and respective parties address the crypto industry and label cryptocurrencies and investment vehicles, which could set the framework for the future.