Cryptofinance: On the path of Sam Bankman-Fried within the Bahamas

Welcome to this week’s FT Cryptofinance publication, which involves you from the Bahamas the place I have been speaking to folks about FTX.

FTX is the large fish that the Bahamas reeled in because it strives to turn into the main digital asset market within the coronary heart of the Caribbean.

The plan was sparked by a blowout FTX convention in April, that includes appearances from Bahamian prime minister Philip Davis, Tony Blair, Invoice Clinton, Katy Perry and NFL star Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bündchen (then nonetheless collectively).

Now that Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire has exploded, a fog of silence has descended on the island, as I found throughout my keep right here this week.

For the prime minister, the collapse of FTX is a critical problem as he sees his presence on the island as a part of the nation’s restoration from Hurricane Dorian in 2019 and the Covid-19 pandemic. As for Bankman-Fried, some say she retains to herself. “He is only a younger child hiding out in Albany,” one taxi driver instructed me.

Albany is a luxurious resort group, collectively owned by Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Justin Timberlake and Joe Lewis, an English businessman.

An area instructed me Albany is an “island inside an island”, a spot the place members can dwell out their whole lives, virtually by no means having to depart. There may be even a highschool for kids. A 600-acre group, the thriller lies past what meets the attention, even when – like me – you are curious sufficient to point out up unannounced on the safety gate.

“I am sorry you got here so removed from London, however I can not provide you with any data,” stated the guard.

“FTX went to Albany as a result of they need privateness, they usually know that is what Albany has to supply,” one native instructed me. “Dubai is the place folks showcase their cash. Albany is the place folks hold secrets and techniques.”

It’s a secret in a way that isn’t mendacity somewhat than evil. Nonetheless, it really works like a allure throughout storms. Steady efforts to return Albany’s door have come to nothing. Non-member passes was once on sale however an Albany worker instructed me none can be found now. The motive force of the automotive that left the property wouldn’t remark to the press; in his haste to depart he virtually drove over my ft. One other worker instructed me succinctly that: “Albany features for confidentiality.”

Stefen Deleveaux, chief government of the Caribbean Blockchain Alliance, stated on the lunch that individuals “simply do not actually take into consideration Albany”. “We can’t have the cash to dwell there, I by no means considered that till this week.”

It is not simply Bankman-Fried’s gated group that tries to keep away from the highlight. At Baha Mar, a luxurious resort for conferences that outlined the period, most workers instructed me they weren’t at liberty to debate FTX or the disgraced former chief government.

However one worker – whom I discovered on the FTX convention middle used – instructed me “everybody was excited” when the king of crypto got here to city.

Jazz membership in Baha Mar © Scott Chipolina

The jazz membership, I used to be instructed, was a favourite among the many FTX crew. However when push got here to shove, Baha Mar additionally pulled the drawbridge.

“No one’s going to inform you something,” one of many entrance desk workers instructed me. I pushed for an interview with the supervisor, they stated: “You need an sincere reply? My supervisor instructed you to Google.”

The truth is, the Bahamas is a small place, and most of the people merely aren’t keen to stay their necks out over “delicate” points like this. Neither is the federal government: I’ve requested a number of instances for an interview with the prime minister however my request has been denied. “Individuals do not need to expose themselves to undesirable public scrutiny,” one Bahamian instructed me.

Whereas some scurry to keep away from awkward questions, within the palm timber and the glowing water seaside that surrounds the island, strange individuals are misplaced. A taxi driver instructed me Bahamians had been upset concerning the collapse of FTX as a result of its arrival promised “good issues” – like jobs for the financial system.

As our video exhibits, the downfall of FTX may by no means be higher symbolized than by the desolate and overgrown web site supposed to accommodate the trade’s future marquee workplace on the island.

However regardless of the wall of silence, I might be remiss to not point out the scene at Nassau airport, which was nonetheless vaguely operating advertisements for FTX once I arrived. As one dismayed couple at passport management famous: “The very first thing they inform you to do is to belief FTX!”

Advertisement for FTX crypto exchange at Nassau airport

Airport in Nassau promoting FTX © Scott Chipolina

Any ideas for me whereas I am within the Bahamas? Electronic mail me at

Be a part of me on our FT Crypto and Digital Property Summit: Winter Version on November 28 the place FT colleagues and I focus on the place this regulation put up. It included appearances from CFTC chair Rostin Behnam and Esma chair Verena Ross. As an FT premium subscriber you need to use promo code PREMIUM2022 to observe digitally totally free, or use FT25 to get 25% off your private go.

What we noticed

  • Each capital has a restaurant or restaurant frequented by essentially the most highly effective folks within the nation. In Nassau, it is Café Matisse, and it proved value a go to throughout my keep. One MP instructed me the Bahamas would not let Bankman-Fried go anyplace “till the US decides what they need to do”.

  • My buddy Madison Darbyshire steered I dig into a well-liked Bahamian meals supply app known as Kraven. I requested the driving force if the FTX crew had used the service and was instructed they usually ordered about $500 value of meals a pop. Perhaps Albany’s restaurant was lower than FTX’s customary.

  • The collapse of FTX continued to roll over the market. Genesis stopped withdrawing from its platform, blaming “unprecedented market circumstances”. Humorous how few firms point out “unprecedented market circumstances” when they’re doing nicely.

  • The brand new FTX chief John Ray III laid into FTX with ferocity. In a US courtroom submitting, Ray stated he had by no means seen “an entire failure of company management and an entire absence of dependable monetary data”. And that is the person who oversaw the liquidation of Enron!

  • And eventually, my colleague Hannah Murphy just lately had lunch with the introverted head of Coinbase Brian Armstrong in San Francisco. Here is an account of the way it works.

Soundbite of the week: Philip Davis, prime minister of the Bahamas

On Wednesday, prime minister Davis instructed his nation’s parliament that, sadly, Bahamian regulators couldn’t cease the collapse of FTX.

“Based mostly on our evaluation and understanding of the FTX liquidity disaster so far, we’ve not recognized any deficiencies in our regulatory framework that might have prevented this.”

Allow us to see whether or not different authorities attain the identical conclusion.

Knowledge mining: Concern and contempt

FTX’s beautiful collapse has additional eroded confidence within the fragile crypto trade, the place the market continues to be reeling from an enormous crash in the summertime.

Knowledge from CryptoCompare exhibits simply how a lot of the trade’s flagship cryptocurrency has flowed out of among the largest exchanges to date this month. From what we’ve heard, some companies are buying and selling off-exchange and a few traders are promoting shares. Others are merely HODLing for higher instances.

Daily average column chart of selected exchanges (000 coins) shows Bitcoin outflows rising as FTX collapses

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