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Opening Arguments: SBF lied to the world, his girlfriend was his Bonnie

Nathan Rehn, an assistant US attorney said that Sam Bankman-Fried was a manipulative and calculated criminal who built a house of cards.

Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried trial is underway. The parties delivered their opening arguments on Wednesday, with the prosecution emphasising that FTX was a big lie told by the founder. 

SBF lied to the world 

The prosecutors and defendant’s counsel delivered their opening arguments to the jury on Wednesday. Both parties told different stories that painted different pictures to the jury. 

Nathan Rehn, an assistant US attorney said that Sam Bankman-Fried was a manipulative and calculated criminal who built a house of cards. He said the FTX founder used investor deposits as a personal bank account before the company crashed a year ago. He noted that SBF’s personal circle knew he was syphoning money. 

“He had wealth, he had power, he had influence, but all of that was built on lies,” Rehn told jurors in federal court in Manhattan Wednesday. “He was committing a massive fraud, and taking billions of dollars from thousands of victims.”

The prosecution also made reference to Alameda Research co-chief executive officer Caroline Ellison. Ellison, who was also SBF’s girlfriend, was fingered as one of those who knew what was going on behind the scenes. She also doubles as the government’s star witness in the trial. 

“The hole was too big,” said Rehn. “So the defendant blamed a downturn in the crypto market. But he had committed fraud. That is what the evidence in this trial will show. You will hear from his inner circle. His girlfriend will tell you how they stole money together.”

Three former members of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle, including former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison and former FTX executives Nishad Singh and Gary Wang, are expected to be called by the prosecution to testify against him. All three have entered guilty pleas and promised to assist the prosecution.

Read more: US DOJ: Lack of crypto laws doesn’t affect the validity of charges against SBF

Defence may shift blame 

SBF’s lawyers’ argument hinged on the idea that Rehn had attempted to portray their client as a “cartoon” villain, rather than the maths nerd that he was. 

Michael Cohen, who’s the leading counsel for Bankman-Fried, told the court that Ellison had failed to prevent FTX fall by hedging some of Alameda’s investments as directed by SBF. He also said that Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao was responsible for running the exchange down with his social media posts. 

FTX was a startup that was still a “work in progress,” Cohen added, and if investors believed in Bankman-Fried’s vision and the potential of his company, well, “there’s nothing wrong with that.”

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