Allegations Surface: SBF Accused of Paying $150 Million in Bribes to Chinese Authorities to Release Frozen Funds, Caroline Ellison Testifies

Caroline Ellison, a key witness in the ongoing criminal trial of Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), has detailed explosive allegations, asserting that SBF orchestrated a scheme involving Thai sex worker identities before resorting to a $150 million bribery attempt to unfreeze $1 billion in funds held by Alameda Research on Chinese exchanges Huobi and OKX. Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda and ex-partner of FTX founder SBF, testified on October 11, revealing a tumultuous sequence of events.

According to Ellison, the frozen funds were a consequence of a 2021 money laundering investigation initiated by Chinese authorities. In a bid to regain access, Alameda allegedly engaged in unscrupulous tactics, including attempting to hire a local lawyer for negotiations, and later, resorting to the creation of accounts using the identities of Thai sex workers on OKX.

Ellison stated, “On OKX, we made several accounts using the IDs of different people who I believe were Thai prostitutes, and we tried to basically have our main account lose money and have those other accounts make money, so do very imbalanced trades between the two accounts so those other accounts would be able to make money and withdraw it.”

In a shocking revelation, Ellison claimed that these maneuvers failed, leading SBF to order the deletion of related messages on the encrypted app Signal. Eventually, the testimony unveiled a desperate $150 million bribery attempt directed at Chinese officials, supposedly unlocking the frozen assets.

Despite prior efforts to navigate the legal landscape in China, including the engagement of local lawyers, Ellison asserted that the ultimate resolution came through the substantial bribe. The complexity of the situation is reflected in the 13 charges faced by SBF, with the current trial focusing on seven fraud-related charges, excluding allegations of bribing Chinese officials. A subsequent trial scheduled for March 2024 is set to address six additional charges, including bank fraud and foreign bribery conspiracy.

As the trial unfolds, a post on social media platform X indicated that Caroline Ellison is expected to undergo cross-examination from SBF’s lawyer, Mark Cohen, on October 12. Throughout the proceedings, Bankman-Fried maintains a not guilty plea to all charges.