Caroline Ellison, the star witness in the Sam Bankman-Fried criminal trial, testified that SBF tried to use identities linked to Thai sex workers to unfreeze funds before bribing Chinese officials for millions.
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Caroline Ellison, the former romantic partner of embattled FTX founder Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried and the former CEO of Alameda Research, has claimed in her courtroom testimony that SBF bribed Chinese officials for millions of dollars to unfreeze funds locked in local exchanges.
In her Oct. 11 testimony, Ellison said there was $1 billion in funds locked up in China and that to access them, Alameda paid a $150 million bribe to Chinese government officials.
AUSA: How much was frozen in China?
Ellison: $1 billion. Sam wanted to find ways to address it.
AUSA: How were they unfrozen?
Ellison: Alameda paid a bribe to Chinese government officials
SBF: Objection, move to strike.
Judge Kaplan: I will strike that
— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) October 11, 2023
The funds, which belonged to Alameda Research, were frozen on the cryptocurrency exchanges Huobi and OKX following a 2021 money laundering probe opened by Chinese authorities.
Ellison testified that Bankman-Fried ordered her and other FTX employees to delete all related messages sent via the encrypted messaging app Signal.
However, before bribing Chinese officials, Ellison said they attempted to hire a local lawyer in China who could help with negotiations with the government.
After attempts with lawyers were unsuccessful, Ellison claimed that Bankman-Fried attempted to use wallets of “other people’s accounts” to unsuccessfully access the funds. This included what turned out to be Thai sex workers.
Ellison said, “On OKX, we made several accounts using the IDs of different people who I believe were Thai prostitutes, and we tried to basically have our main account lose money and have those other accounts make money, so do very imbalanced trades between the two accounts so those other accounts would be able to make money and withdraw it.”
When questioned how the accounts were ultimately unfrozen,, Ellison said she thought they were unfrozen after Alameda paid the bribe.
According to a post on X (formerly Twitter) from a witness in the courtroom, Ellison must return on Oct. 12 for a cross-examination from SBF’s lawyer, Mark Cohen.
Oh, she has to (come back tomorrow) – now for cross examination by Bankman-Fried’s lawyer Mark Cohen, which began a big slow and disorganized at the end of today’s session. We’ll see tomorrow – I aim to be live tweeting it, starting at 9:30 am https://t.co/mUdG7ST2qm
— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) October 12, 2023
SBF faces 13 charges. The first seven charges of fraud are being heard in his current trial, which began on Oct. 3 and do not include charges of bribing Chinese officials.
However, in a second trial scheduled for March 2024, he faces six additional charges, including bank fraud and foreign bribery conspiracy charges. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Cointelegraph reporters are on the ground in New York covering the trial. As the saga unfolds, check here for the latest updates.