US officials alleged that former FTX chief Sam Bankman-Fried authorized bribes of at least $40 million to Chinese officials, according to an updated indictment filed Tuesday.
The payments came after Chinese officials in early 2021 froze some $1 billion in cryptocurrency trading accounts controlled by FTX affiliate Alameda, according to an amended criminal indictment signed by US Attorney Damian Williams.
The move amounts to a 13th criminal charge against the former cryptocurrency highflyer, for "conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act."
Bankman-Fried has also been charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering as well as election finance violations.
Bankman-Fried, who has pleaded not guilty, is out on bail and living at his parent's home in California.
FTX and its sister trading house Alameda Research went bankrupt in November, dissolving a virtual trading business that at one point had been valued by the market at $32 billion.
The China case stemmed from a move by Chinese authorities to freeze Alameda accounts as part of what Bankman-Fried understood as a probe of an Alameda trading counterparty.
Bankman-Fried and associates "tried numerous methods" to regain access to the funds, including retaining attorneys and communicating with Chinese exchanges.
After months of setbacks, Bankman-Fried "ultimately agreed to and directed a multi-million-dollar bribe to seek to unfreeze the accounts," according to the indictment, adding that the accounts were unfrozen.