Sam Bankman-Fried promised his FTX crypto empire would save the world. US authorities say he was lying from the start

Right until the moment Bahamian police knocked on the door of his lavish penthouse apartment, Sam Bankman-Fried appeared to hold out hope that he could clean up his mess. 

The 30-year-old was putting the finishing touches on his testimony to the US House Financial Services Committee. 

Congress was investigating how FTX, one of the world’s top digital currency exchange platforms, was able to collapse so quickly and so spectacularly. 

In just a few chaotic days last month, Bankman-Fried’s $US32 billion ($46 billion) company fell apart. 

FTX declared bankruptcy, leaving its customers unable to withdraw their money, and Bankman-Fried resigned as CEO. 

It was a dramatic fall from grace for the youthful entrepreneur, who once claimed that he was on track to become the world’s first trillionaire. 

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Sam Bankman-Fried leaves court in the Bahamas, to be extradited back to the United States.

Instead, he’ll go down on record as the man who experienced the biggest wealth collapse in US history. 

Still, as the net tightened around him, Bankman-Fried worked to free himself. 

“I f***ed up,” he wrote in his draft congressional testimony that was later leaked to the media.

“I know that it doesn’t mean much to say that I’m sorry. And so I’m dedicating as much of myself as I can to doing right by customers.” 

But he would never get a chance to apologise to Congress and explain what, in his view, went so wrong. 

The night before he was due to testify, Bahamian police arrested him at the request of the US government. 

He’s now facing eight criminal charges including wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit fraud on the United States. 

The rise of America’s scruffy billionaire 

Sam Bankman-Fried launched FTX in 2019, building a cult of personality around himself as a mop-topped millennial genius. 

He wore T-shirts and shorts everywhere, napped on bean bags in his office, and played video games during meetings with investors.

A young man sleeping on the floor of an office while other men work around him
Sam Bankman-Fried often napped in the office and played video games during meetings with investors. (Twitter: @SBF_FTX )

He claimed to be a follower of the “effective altruism” philosophy, which encourages people to get lucrative jobs so they can amass wealth and donate it to charities. 

“We have been culturally seduced by a story here that … this digital economy is largely driven by narrative and memes,” risk analyst Richard Smith told the ABC. 

“Sam Bankman-Fried figured out how to play the game, consequently, better than anybody else.” 

By basing his company offshore — first in Hong Kong and then in the Bahamas — he hoped to take advantage of more relaxed financial regulations.

He had promised his customers that FTX was “the cleanest brand in crypto”, guaranteeing “high returns, no risk”. 

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