FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried denies stealing funds from failed crypto exchange

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried denies stealing funds from failed crypto exchange
Former FTX chief executive Sam Bankman-Fried departs from his court hearing at a federal court in New York City's Manhattan district on January 3, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 13 January 2023

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried denies stealing funds from failed crypto exchange

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried denies stealing funds from failed crypto exchange
  • Bankman-Fried blamed collapse of FTX exchange on a broad crash in cryptocurrency markets
  • FTX valued a year ago at $32 bln, but over $8 billion in FTX customer funds missing


NEW YORK: Sam Bankman-Fried said he did not steal money and blamed the collapse of his now-bankrupt FTX exchange on a broad crash in cryptocurrency markets, in a highly unusual blog post on Thursday, a month after his arrest on US fraud charges.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan in December said Bankman-Fried stole billions of dollars from FTX customers to pay debts for his crypto-focused hedge fund, Alameda Research, purchase lavish real estate, and donate to US political campaigns.
He has pleaded not guilty. The Substack blog post — a rare public statement by a US criminal defendant — amounts to a preview of the defense case Bankman-Fried may present when his trial begins on Oct. 2.
“I didn’t steal funds, and I certainly didn’t stash billions away,” Bankman-Fried wrote.
Defense lawyers typically advise clients to stay silent before trial because prosecutors may use their comments against them in court.
A spokesman for Bankman-Fried declined to comment. A spokesman for the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan declined to comment.
In the post, Bankman-Fried did not directly address many of the other charges brought against him by federal prosecutors in Manhattan last month, namely that he misled investors and lenders about the financial conditions of FTX and Alameda. He wrote that he had “a lot more to say.”
The 30-year-old onetime billionaire wrote that Alameda failed to hedge against an “extreme” crash in the crypto markets, which ultimately came to pass last year.
“As Alameda became illiquid, FTX International did as well, because Alameda had a margin position open on FTX,” Bankman-Fried wrote.
Last month, two of his closest associates pleaded guilty to defrauding the trading platform’s customers and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors’ investigation.
Caroline Ellison, Alameda’s former chief executive, said in her plea hearing that Bankman-Fried and other FTX executives received billions of dollars in secret loans from Alameda.
Bankman-Fried was released on a $250 million bond in December and put under house arrest at his parents’ Palo Alto, California home, which was pledged as collateral for his return to court.
$5 billion recovered
In the post, Bankman-Fried also said FTX’s US wing is “fully solvent” and that its international unit has many billions of dollars in assets.
“If it were to reboot I believe there is a real chance that customers could be made substantially whole,” he wrote.
The comments came after a lawyer for FTX on Wednesday told a federal bankruptcy court in Delaware that the exchange had located more than $5 billion in liquid assets, and that the company plans to sell nonstrategic investments that had a book value of $4.6 billion.
That does not include assets seized by the Securities Commission of the Bahamas, where FTX was based and where Bankman-Fried lived before he was extradited to the United States. Bahamian authorities say they have seized $3.5 billion, but FTX says those funds are worth as little as $170 million.
On Wednesday night, Bankman-Fried replied on Twitter to a user named @wassielawyer who said a sale of the FTX exchange was viable. “yup my sense is that is and always has been the best recovery scenario for customers,” wrote Bankman-Fried.
FTX declared bankruptcy on Nov. 11, the same day Bankman-Fried stepped down as its chief executive.

Qatar’s budget surplus hit $5.4bn in Q1 exceeding expectations  

Qatar’s budget surplus hit $5.4bn in Q1 exceeding expectations  
Updated 05 June 2023

Qatar’s budget surplus hit $5.4bn in Q1 exceeding expectations  

Qatar’s budget surplus hit $5.4bn in Q1 exceeding expectations  

RIYADH: Qatar registered more than two-thirds of its expected 2023 budget surplus in the first three months of the year thanks to a large inflow of oil and gas revenues, the country’s Finance Ministry has revealed.

According to Qatar’s state news agency, the country’s trade balance was 19.7 billion Qatari riyals ($5.4 billion) in the black for the first quarter of the year, the equivalent of 68 percent of its anticipated budget surplus for 2023.

The figure reflects a 70 percent increase compared to the fourth quarter of 2022, which saw a profit of 11.6 billion riyals. 

The total revenues in the first three months of 2023 reached 68.6 billion riyals, of which 63.4 billion came from oil and gas revenues.  

Non-oil revenues made up the remaining 5.2 billion riyals during the period.  

According to previous expectations, the Gulf nation was anticipated to record a budget surplus of 29 billion riyals by the end of 2023.  

Budget estimates were based on the oil prices of $65 per barrel, whereas the first quarter saw an average price of $82.2, leading to the higher revenue. 

While issuing this year’s budget, Finance Minister Ali Al-Kuwari noted the surplus is expected to go toward repaying Qatar’s public debt, boosting central bank reserves, and increasing the capital of the state’s sovereign wealth fund.

In April 2023, Qatar recorded a trade surplus of 22 billion riyals, according to a report released by the country’s Planning and Statistics Authority in May.   

The data reflected a 3.5 percent increase over March while a 35.6 percent decline on an annual basis.   

The value of merchandise imports during April 2023 also fell 6.3 percent from the previous year and 9.3 percent from the last month to reach an estimated 8.7 billion riyals.  

Meanwhile, the value of Qatar’s exports of oil, gas, and condensate tumbled in April to 18.6 billion riyals, reflecting a decrease of 33.2 percent on an annual basis.  

Saudi Arabia’s first sustainable guarantee issued to green hydrogen project at NEOM

Saudi Arabia’s first sustainable guarantee issued to green hydrogen project at NEOM
Updated 05 June 2023

Saudi Arabia’s first sustainable guarantee issued to green hydrogen project at NEOM

Saudi Arabia’s first sustainable guarantee issued to green hydrogen project at NEOM

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s green hydrogen project being developed at NEOM received the Kingdom’s first sustainable guarantee from the British bank, Standard Chartered, which agreed to extend funding support for its contractor Larsen & Toubro to build the necessary renewable energy infrastructure. 

Located at Oxagon, the world’s largest green hydrogen plant is being built by NEOM Green Hydrogen Co., which is an equal joint venture between ACWA Power, Air Products and the $500-billion giga-project.

Sustainable guarantees are issued by lending agencies for green projects that make positive contributions to the environment. 

The megaplant will produce green hydrogen at scale for global export in the form of green ammonia with a total investment of $8.4 billion. The project, which recently achieved full financial closure, is supported by 23 local, regional and international banking and financial institutions. 

In addition to limiting carbon emissions and promoting sustainable development in the Kingdom, this step will add to the country’s diversification efforts.   

“We are pleased to issue the first sustainable guarantee in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which supports the growth and development of green hydrogen. At Standard Chartered, we know that technological and financial innovation is critical in supporting the global transition towards a low-carbon economy,” said Mohammad Salama, Standard Chartered’s regional head of corporate, commercial, and institutional banking in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Standard Chartered said the sustainable guarantee will ensure that L&T receives the necessary financial support for the development of the wind and solar farms to support the green hydrogen generation in this project while meeting the bank’s environmental, social and governance standards. 

This comes after L&T won a $2.78 billion contract to establish the renewable energy generation, storage and grid infrastructure, from Air Products, which is the system-integrating engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the project.   

As part of the contract, L&T will engineer, procure and construct 2.2 gigawatts alternating current photovoltaic solar plant, a 1.65 GW wind generation balance of plant and a 400 megawatt-hour battery energy storage system under the power elements package. 

Its subsidiary L&T Saudi Arabia is responsible for the design, local supplies, construction and commissioning of the renewable and grid packages while the international supplies will be handled by its other subsidiary LTIFZE. 

“Through such initiatives, we emphasize the power of partnerships in fostering sustainable development and practices. We remain focused on continuing to grow our green business in Saudi Arabia in partnership with and continued support from Standard Chartered as one of our key relationship banks,” said R. Shankar Raman, the chief financial officer at L&T Group. 

OPEC is being ‘proactive, preemptive,’ Saudi energy minister tells CNBC

OPEC is being ‘proactive, preemptive,’ Saudi energy minister tells CNBC
Updated 05 June 2023

OPEC is being ‘proactive, preemptive,’ Saudi energy minister tells CNBC

OPEC is being ‘proactive, preemptive,’ Saudi energy minister tells CNBC

VIENNA: Defending the decisions made by the oil producers’ alliance, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman stressed the need to “trust OPEC+” which he described as “the most effective international organization” working to restore market stability.

Talking to CNBC International’s Dan Murphy on Sunday, the energy minister said the voluntary oil output cuts announced by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia, also known as OPEC+, were precautionary measures.

“It was just our sensibility, if you will call it, that the environment was not sufficiently allowing confidence to be there. So taking a precautionary measure tends to put you on the safe side. And it is part of the typical rhythm that we have installed in OPEC, which is being proactive, being preemptive,” Prince Abdulaziz said.

Oil prices rose by more than $1 a barrel on Monday after Saudi Arabia pledged to cut production by a further 1 million barrels per day from July to counter macroeconomic headwinds that have depressed markets.

The voluntary cut is on top of a broader deal by OPEC+ to limit supply into 2024 as the group seeks to boost flagging oil prices.

OPEC+ pumps about 40 percent of the world’s crude and has cut its output target by a total of 3.66 million bpd, amounting to 3.6 percent of global demand.

Commenting on the Saudi decision, Prince Abdulaziz said: “It is icing on the cake.”

Dan Murphy of CNBC International during an interview with Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.

The Kingdom has kept the option open for an extension to the voluntary cuts depending on “how things really work.”

The Saudi energy minister told CNBC that the oil producers’ group is considering new baselines to ensure equitable and fair production quotas for all members in the group according to their capacities in a transparent manner.

OPEC+ now intends to have three independent analysts — IHS, Wood Mackenzie, and Rystad Energy — study the individual capacity of each group member.

“Hopefully by mid-year next year, we will have new baselines and a way forward that makes it more equitable, more fair for everybody to assign for them production levels that are going to be commensurate with their capacities in the most transparent way,” the minister said.

When asked about trusting OPEC’s ally Russia, Prince Abdulaziz responded in the affirmative.

“Absolutely. But I always like President (Ronald) Reagan’s line: trust but verify.” He said, noting the instrumental role of independent sources in assessing production.

Closing bell: Saudi main index continues upward trend

Closing bell: Saudi main index continues upward trend
Updated 05 June 2023

Closing bell: Saudi main index continues upward trend

Closing bell: Saudi main index continues upward trend

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index continued its upward trend for the second consecutive day, as reigning oil prices raised investor confidence. 

On Monday, the benchmark index gained 71.63 points or 0.64 percent to close at 11,293.59. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.38 billion ($1.70 billion) as 125 listed stocks advanced, while 75 retreated. 

Brent crude futures were at $77.92 a barrel, up $1.79, or 2.35 percent, at 3:30 p.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude climbed $1.83 or 2.55 percent to $73.57 a barrel. 

While parallel market Nomu fell 124.49 points to 21,316, the MSCI Tadawul Index rose 0.45 percent to close at 1,496.92. 

Elm Co. was the best performer of the day, as its share price surged 9.98 percent to SR500.49. 

Elm Co., in a statement to Tadawul, announced that it is carrying out preliminary talks with Thiqah Business Services Co. to buy Public Investment Fund’s entire ownership in Thiqah. 

Elm Co. added that these talks do not imply that the acquisition deal will be conclusive. 

Other top performers were Arabian Internet and Communications Services Co. and Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co., whose share prices advanced by 5.80 percent and 5.27 percent, respectively. 

The worst performer of the day was Saudi Marketing Co. The company’s share price dropped by 2.19 percent to SR29.05. 

On the announcements front, Tourism Enterprises Co., also known as Shams, said it had named Mohannad Saleh Alonaizan as the firm’s new CEO, effective July 1.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt sign MoU to bolster bilateral trade

Saudi Arabia, Egypt sign MoU to bolster bilateral trade
Updated 05 June 2023

Saudi Arabia, Egypt sign MoU to bolster bilateral trade

Saudi Arabia, Egypt sign MoU to bolster bilateral trade

RIYADH: Bilateral trade between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is set to grow after an agreement was reached to enhance economic cooperation — with a key focus on developing the non-oil export sector.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed by the Saudi Export Development Authority and Egypt’s Export Development Authority, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The agreement falls within the framework of the two countries’ commitment to bolster economic and trade cooperation while developing non-oil export sectors to further diversify sources of income.

The MoU was signed on the sidelines of the official visit of Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef to Egypt.

Abdulrahman Al-Thukair, CEO of the Saudi Export Development Authority, and Egypt’s Minister of Plenipotentiary Trade Yahya Al-Wathiq Billah inked the agreement.

Under the new MoU, the countries will collaborate across broad areas including the exchange of experiences and knowledge in the field of developing exports as well as cooperation around relevant research and studies, Al-Thukair explained.

In addition to this, the two countries will also provide technical support and consultations in the fields of export and international marketing, the CEO said.

The Kingdom and Egypt will work together closely in the organization of joint events, as well as seminars, to enhance communication and exchange of experiences between companies and exporters in the two countries, he added.

Furthermore, the MoU reflects the commitment of the two parties to strengthen bilateral cooperation and joint action in order to achieve the goals of development and sustainability in the field of exports.

Through this MoU, the Saudi authority aims to expand the scope of local producers and exporters in line with the Vision 2030 goal of raising the proportion of exports to no less than 50 percent of the Kingdom’s non-oil gross domestic product.