Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, plans to testify at his criminal fraud trial in Manhattan, his lawyer said Wednesday.
The lawyer, Mark Cohen, confirmed Mr. Bankman-Fried’s plan to take the witness stand at a hearing with prosecutors and the judge overseeing the case, which was held on the last day of the nearly weeklong trial. Mr. Bankman-Fried, 31, is expected to begin testifying on Thursday, when federal prosecutors call their final witness in the morning.
“Our client is going to testify,” Mr. Cohen said at the hearing.
Mr. Bankman-Fried is accused of orchestrating a widespread scheme to steal more than $10 billion in deposits from FTX customers. Prosecutors say the cryptocurrency mogul funneled the money into political contributions, real estate purchases and other lavish spending.
Mr Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to seven charges of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment.
In the first three weeks of the trial, prosecutors convened a procession of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s close friends and colleagues, who testified that the FTX founder lied to customers, investors and lenders about the exchange’s use of client funds.
At the hearing on Wednesday, Mr Cohen said the defense was planning to call three witnesses in addition to Mr Bankman-Fried. One is financial services advisor Joseph Pimbley, who is expected to testify about the finances of FTX and crypto trading firm Alameda Research, which borrowed billions of dollars from FTX customers. Mr. Bankman-Fried founded Alameda before starting FTX.
Mr Cohen also plans to call a Bahamian lawyer who was involved in Mr Bankman-Fried’s case, as well as an expert on the preservation of corporate records.
Mr Bankman-Fried is expected to testify after those witnesses.
A few weeks after FTX imploded in November, Mr. Bankman-Fried was arrested at his penthouse apartment in the Bahamas, where the exchange was based. He was then extradited to the United States and placed under house arrest at his parents’ home in Northern California. In August, his bail was revoked after a judge ruled that he had tried to intimidate witnesses.
During the trial, Mr. Bankman-Fried spent his nights in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where his lawyers say he got only intermittent access to computer files needed to prepare for the trial. In August, lawyers said Mr. Bankman-Fried, who is a vegetarian, was subsisting on a diet of bread, water and peanut butter.
Mr. Bankman-Fried has appeared in court each day of the trial, which began this month, wearing a suit bought from the discount rack at Macy’s. His parents, Stanford law professors Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried, watched from the gallery, along with other powerful legal figures, including Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor Damien Williams.