Sam Bankman-Fried plans to testify at crypto fraud trial

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NEW DELHI: FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried plans to testify at his fraud trial, his lawyer told a federal judge Wednesday.Attorney Mark Cohen told Judge Lewis A Kaplan that he planned to call three witnesses “and then our client is also going to be testifying” after prosecutors rest early Thursday.There were speculations over whether a man who embraced the spotlight during his years atop the cryptocurrency world could remain silent after prosecutors portrayed him as a “greedy entrepreneur who stole billions of dollars from customers.”The 31-year-old former crypto billionaire is pursuing an unconventional legal strategy if he testifies.The approach comes after weeks of compelling evidence that suggests he misappropriated billions of dollars from unsuspecting customers of his FTX cryptocurrency exchange.Bankman-Fried’s decision to testify introduces the risk of rigorous questioning by prosecutors, who are armed with a wealth of documents, messages, and statements from cooperative witnesses. The aim is to challenge his credibility, making this a daring move for the defendant.Legal experts point to Bankman-Fried’s apparent willingness to embrace risk, coupled with his openness in discussing the charges publicly and the negative portrayal by prosecutors, as factors that might influence his choice to testify. The objective would be to persuade at least one juror that he had no fraudulent intent.The legal team representing Bankman-Fried has indicated their contemplation of this approach, with defense attorney Ilene Jaroslaw stating, “It’s not irrational to testify, if you think you are going down because the evidence is so overwhelming.”The prosecution is expected to conclude their presentation in the coming days. Bankman-Fried faces allegations of misappropriating customer funds to engage in speculative venture investments, contribute to political candidates, and settle debts with his hedge fund, Alameda Research.Despite repeated requests, a representative for Bankman-Fried has declined to provide a statement regarding the ongoing trial.One of the notable testimonies during the trial came from Caroline Ellison, a former co-chief of Alameda, who portrayed Bankman-Fried as “risk-neutral,” in contrast to the typical risk-averse nature of most individuals.Ellison was one of three former members of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle who testified, admitting their involvement in alleged crimes alongside the defendant. This testimony contributed to the government’s portrayal of Bankman-Fried as a “cartoon of a villain,” a characterization strongly contested by his legal team.(With inputs from agencies)

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