Home/ Companies / News/  Seized $3.5 billion in FTX crypto assets, Bahamas regulator says

Bahamas securities regulators said they seized digital assets valued at $3.5 billion from FTX’s local operation in mid-November as the cryptocurrency exchange spiraled toward collapse, a figure that FTX’s U.S. managers cast doubt on Friday.

Christina Rolle, executive director of the Securities Commission of the Bahamas, said in an affidavit made public Thursday that the commission sought control of the crypto assets held by FTX Digital Markets Ltd. last month after FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried told local authorities under oath about a hacking attempt. Her affidavit, filed with the Supreme Court of the Bahamas, also confirmed that the Securities Commission relied on Mr. Bankman-Fried and another FTX co-founder, Gary Wang, to make the transfers happen.

Ms. Rolle’s account provides new insight into how regulators in the Bahamas, where FTX ran its doomed exchange operation, responded as the firm collapsed, including by sweeping its local assets to government-controlled wallets. Those tokens were valued at $3.5 billion at the time of the transfer, according to her affidavit.

On Friday, FTX’s U.S. managers disputed the multibillion-dollar value that Bahamian officials assigned to the crypto assets they swept, pegging the assets’ worth at $296 million when they were transferred, or $167 million based on more recent spot prices.

FTX’s U.S. management has criticized Bahamian officials for weeks, alleging they directed unauthorized transfers of company assets and said Friday it would seek to retrieve the seized cryptocurrency from the Bahamas.

The dispute has raised the question of whether U.S. or Bahamian courts will divvy up at least some assets amassed by FTX, a company operating globally and run from the Bahamas. A list of the top 50 FTX creditors that was filed in U.S. bankruptcy court indicates they alone are owed $3.1 billion.

The crypto assets that were swept into government-controlled wallets in the Bahamas include roughly 195 million of FTX’s FTT tokens, 1,938 Ethereum “and other miscellaneous coins that do not have substantial value," according to FTX’s statement on Friday.

FTX said the Securities Commission should “clear up any confusion created by their recent statements and provide the public with accurate information concerning the cryptocurrency seized and how it was valued."

According to Ms. Rolle’s affidavit, Messrs. Bankman-Fried and Wang made the transfers out of the exchange’s local unit based on a court order obtained by the Securities Commission.

“There was no other timely option available to the [Securities Commission] to achieve compliance" with the Bahamian court order, Ms. Rolle said.

The Securities Commission is maintaining the FTX Digital Markets assets in wallets hosted by Fireblocks, an institutional digital-asset custodian, according to the affidavit.

The transfers were done a day after Mr. Bankman-Fried resigned as FTX chief executive and his successor, John J. Ray III, put more than 100 FTX affiliates into chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del. FTX Digital Markets isn’t included in the U.S. bankruptcy filing and has been overseen by Bahamas court-appointed liquidators.

The Securities Commission said Thursday it is temporarily holding the digital assets it swept and is awaiting direction from the Bahamian Supreme Court, which could require the digital assets to be delivered to customers and creditors who own them, or to the local liquidators of FTX Digital Markets.

Mr. Ray and FTX’s bankruptcy lawyers have questioned the independence of the Bahamian liquidation proceeding and said the crypto transfers removed assets that belong to FTX’s chapter 11 estate.

Ms. Rolle said the Securities Commission had acted properly, and disputed allegations from FTX lawyers that Bahamian officials directed the minting of new tokens as the exchange was collapsing.

“This statement is unsubstantiated and untrue, and has the effect of casting a pall of mistrust over public institutions in the Bahamas and otherwise sully the reputation of this jurisdiction," her affidavit said.

Ms. Rolle said the Securities Commission didn’t publicly share details that explain why it took the actions it did in November sooner because of a confidentiality order, which it initially sought from the court to avoid tipping off parties that could be connected to FTX Digital Markets.

Earlier this month, an FTX lawyer said in a bankruptcy-court hearing that its management team is negotiating with Bahamian authorities to resolve a dispute over access to the failed crypto exchange’s electronic records.

Ms. Rolle said the Securities Commission rebuffed an offer by Mr. Bankman-Fried in early November to allow Bahamian customers to withdraw funds from FTX. She said in earlier court filings with the Bahamas court that such transfers could be subject to clawbacks.

(Write to Jonathan Randles at Jonathan.Randles@wsj.com and Becky Yerak at becky.yerak@wsj.com)

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