‘Flight risk’ Sam Bankman-Fried’s 2 private jets worth over $28M confiscated during trial

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Authorities confiscated Sam Bankman-Fried’s two private jets, worth a collective $28.4 million, as the indicted founder of now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX — who was posed as a “flight risk” — enters the fourth day of his six-week trial. Though the government seized Bankman-Fried’s two jets in an apparent move to ensure he and his family remain grounded in the US, the 31-year-old former billionaire reportedly never even flew on the planes. The two confiscated planes listed in authorities’ forfeiture filing in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday: a Bombardier Global 5000 and an Embraer ERJ-135BJ Legacy 600, which cost Bankman-Fried $15.9 million and $12.5 million, respectively. The Bombardier model Bankman-Fried owns is one of the largest purpose-built private jets on the market, with a capacity to seat 13 passengers by day or sleep seven by night, according to a listing on charter airline VistaJet. Though Bankman-Fried’s model had just a wardrobe and storage cabinet aboard, the plane could accommodate upgrades like a movie theater and bedroom for travelers to enjoy on flights of up to 6,000 miles — about the distance from New York City to China, where FTX was headquartered before Bankman-Fried moved its hub to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, the smaller Embraer plane Bankman-Fried also owned but never flew, could sit up to nine and travel as far as 4,500 miles in record speed, according to the Brazil-based aerospace company’s website. A separate court filing claims that Bankman-Fried got the two private jets as part of a “handshake” deal with Paul Aranha — the chief of Trans Island Airways and the beneficial owner of Island Air Capital, which operated Bankman-Fried’s planes. The handshake also saw FTX loaning a sum of around $11 million to Aranha, which he repaid into an FTX customer account, according to Business Insider, making Aranha “one of the largest Bahamian victims of SBF’s cryptocurrency fraud,” court documents said. At the time, Bankman-Fried was also reportedly gearing up to invest $17 million in TIA via FTX Ventures in a deal that would make the jailed ex-billionaire joint owner of the Barbados-based plane airline. When FTX imploded in November 2022, FTX debtors and the government placed an automatic stay on IAC, preventing Aranha from operating or selling the jets. Though it’s unclear where the Embraer is parked, the Global has been sitting idle at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut since late January, Insider reported, and Aranha is attempting to appeal the automatic stay. A custody battle over the planes has since ensued. FTX debtors — led by John J. Ray III, who’s been serving as FTX’s CEO to lead the company through its complex bankruptcy — claimed in August that they owned the planes in one of their latest efforts to claw back assets they lost in the cryptocurrency exchange’s demise. TIA declined The Post’s request for comment. Last month, the debtors were poised to receive millions back in sponsorships it paid out for celebrity athletes like Shaquille O’Neal, Stephen Curry and Naomi Osaka, and sued Bankman-Fried’s parents for “millions of dollars in fraudulently transferred and misappropriated funds.” Meanwhile, Bankman-Fried’s six-week trial is underway, with former colleagues and friends already taking the stand to reveal new information about FTX’s far fall from grace. Former FTX developer Adam Yedidia testified on Thursday that he raised concerns about the massive sum that Bankman-Fried’s trading firm, Alameda Research, owed to his cryptocurrency exchange FTX in June or July 2022, just a few months before it went under. “It was a very large debt, and I wanted to know that Alameda could pay it,” Yedidia, 31, recalled in Manhattan federal court of the powwow at the Albany luxury resort, whose investors include Justin Timberlake and Tiger Woods. Bankman-Fried then admitted that his companies were “not bulletproof anymore,” while he “looked nervous,” Yedidia testified. Gary Wang, the crypto exchange’s co-founder and Bankman-Fried’s former college roommate at MIT, also admitted Thursday that Bankman-Fried directed him to write computer code allowing Alameda to have the “special privilege” of withdrawing essentially “unlimited” user funds on FTX — all while consumers were left in the dark. Wang, pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and is testifying as part of a cooperation agreement with prosecutors.

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