Sam Bankman-Fried tried to affect the witness by way of Sign: DOJ

Former FTX chief 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 seeking to ban accused FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried from using encrypted messaging software, citing efforts that “may constitute witness tampering,” according to a letter filed Friday in Manhattan federal court.

Bankman-Fried contacted the “current general counsel of FTX US, who may be a witness at the trial,” prosecutors said. Ryne Miller, who was not named in the government filings, is FTX US’ current legal counsel and a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis.

The government claims Bankman-Fried wrote to Miller via Signal, an encrypted messaging app, on Jan. 15, days after crypto exchange bankruptcy officials disclosed recovering more than $5 billion in FTX assets.

“I’d really like to get back in touch and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources if possible, or at least check things out with each other,” Bankman-Fried reportedly agreed Miller.

Bankman-Fried was also in contact with “other current and former FTX employees,” the filing says. Federal prosecutors allege that Bankman-Fried’s request indicates an attempt to tamper with the witness’ testimony and that Bankman-Fried’s attempt to mend his relationship with Miller “may itself constitute witness tampering.”

Both Miller and a Bankman-Fried representative declined to comment.

By restricting Bankman-Fried’s access to Signal and other encrypted messaging platforms, the government cites the need to “prevent obstruction of justice”. Federal prosecutors allege Bankman-Fried routed Alameda and FTX through Slack and Signal and ordered his associates to cease communications to “automatically delete after 30 days or less.”

Citing previously unreleased testimony from Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda, the government claimed Bankman-Fried stated that “many legal cases rely on documentation and it is more difficult to build a legal case when information is not written or be kept”. Ellison pleaded guilty to multiple fraud charges and cooperated with US Attorney efforts to establish a case against Bankman-Fried.

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

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