Indian-origin engineer at FTX pleads guilty to fraud charges

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NEW YORK: A person of Indian origin and a third member of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s inner circle pleaded guilty to fraud charges, according to The Wall Street Journal. The 27-year-old engineer had agreed to assist federal prosecutors, expanding the pool of cooperating witnesses against the former head of the failed crypto exchange.

Nishad Singh, the company’s former director of engineering, pleaded guilty to six criminal counts, including conspiring to commit securities and commodities fraud, during a hearing on Tuesday in a federal court in Manhattan, WSJ said. “I’m unbelievably sorry for my role in all of this and the harm that it has caused”, Singh told US District Judge Lewis Kaplan.

Singh said that in mid-2022, he learned that Bankman-Fried’s crypto hedge fund Alameda Research was borrowing FTX customer funds. By September 2022, Alameda was no longer able to repay the billions of dollars that it had taken from FTX, Singh said. He said that at the direction of Bankman-Fried, he falsified FTX’s revenues to make the company more appealing to investors. “I had a strong belief that he would not share FTX’s full financial condition”, Singh said of Bankman-Fried.

Singh also pleaded guilty to defrauding the US in a campaign-finance scheme, according to WSJ. He admitted in court that he made illegal donations to political-action committees and candidates using Alameda funds. The contributions were to enhance Bankman-Fried and FTX’s political influence, he said.

A spokesman for Bankman-Fried declined to comment, according to The Wall Street Journal. The FTX founder’s trial is scheduled for October, according to WSJ.

Bankman-Fried was arrested last December and extradited from the Bahamas on fraud and conspiracy charges related to the implosion of FTX. Last week, prosecutors unveiled a new indictment charging him with additional crimes. Prosecutors said that Bankman-Fried stole billions of dollars of FTX customer funds, in addition to misleading investors and lenders. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty and denied committing fraud and stealing customer funds.

Under the terms of Singh’s plea agreement, he is required to testify at any trial if federal prosecutors request that he do so, according to WSJ.

In parallel actions, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) on Tuesday filed civil fraud lawsuits against Singh, WSJ said.

Singh created software code that allowed FTX customer funds to be diverted to Alameda, and he knew Bankman-Fried was improperly using such funds for venture investments and other purposes, according to the SEC. In September and October, despite knowing about the shakiness of FTX and Alameda’s finances, Singh withdrew about $6 million from FTX for personal use, including the purchase of a house and charitable donations, the SEC alleged in its suit.

The SEC said that Singh had agreed to a settlement, subject to court approval, under which he will be barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company and pay a penalty, the size of which has yet to be determined. Similarly, the CFTC said Singh wasn’t contesting its claims. According to WSJ, Singh’s lawyers said that their client will do everything he could to make things right for FTX victims.

Singh’s plea follows similar admissions in December by former Alameda Chief Executive Caroline Ellison and Gary Wang, FTX’s former chief technology officer. Both pleaded guilty to fraud offences and are cooperating with prosecutors, according to WSJ.

WSJ said Singh attended the same elite Silicon Valley prep school as Bankman-Fried and was close friends with his younger brother, Gabriel Bankman-Fried. He joined Alameda in late 2017 and became one of the key technical architects of FTX when the exchange launched in 2019. (ANI)

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