Sam Bankman-Fried tried to influence a witness via Signal: DOJ

Former FTX chief executive Sam Bankman-Fried (C) arrives to plead before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in federal court in Manhattan, New York, January 3, 2023.

Ed Jones | AFP | Getty Images

Federal prosecutors are trying to stop indicted FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried from using encrypted messaging software, citing efforts that could ‘constitute witness tampering’, according to a letter filed in court Friday Manhattan Federal.

Bankman-Fried contacted “current FTX US general counsel who may be a witness at trial,” prosecutors said. Ryne Miller, who was not identified by name in the government filing, is the current attorney for FTX US and a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis.

Government says Bankman-Fried wrote to Miller via Signal, a crypto-messaging app, on January 15, days after officials in the crypto exchange’s bankruptcy disclosed the recovery of more than $5 billion of FTX assets.

“I would really like to reconnect and see if there is a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least check things in with each other,” reportedly said. Bankman-Fried to Miller.

Bankman-Fried has also been in contact with “other current and former FTX employees,” the filing said. Federal prosecutors allege that Bankman-Fried’s request suggests an effort to influence the witness’s testimony, and that Bankman-Fried’s effort to improve his relationship with Miller “may in itself constitute witness tampering.”

Miller did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

By restricting Bankman-Fried’s access to Signal and other encrypted messaging platforms, the government invokes the need to “prevent obstruction of justice”. Federal prosecutors say Bankman-Fried ran Alameda and FTX through Slack and Signal, and ordered its employees to set communications to “automatically delete after 30 days or less.”

Citing previously undisclosed testimony from ex-Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison, the government claimed that Bankman-Fried indicated that “a lot of legal cases revolve around documentation and it’s harder to put together a legal record if the information is not written down or retained”. Ellison pleaded guilty to multiple fraud charges and cooperated with the US Attorney’s efforts to build a case against Bankman-Fried.

Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to eight counts related to the collapse of his multi-billion dollar crypto empire, FTX. He is due in federal court in October, after being released on $250 million bail.

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