Former cryptocurrency magnate Sam Bankman-Fried has taken the stand in his trial for fraud, following the dismissal of the jury for the day.
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan stated that he wanted to hear the testimony of the 31-year-old first, without the presence of the jurors, on Thursday, before determining which portions would be admissible.
This unexpected move has been labeled as “unusual” by commentators and follows days of speculation on whether Bankman-Fried would testify in his defense.
The jurors were instructed to return to the New York courtroom on Friday morning, when they are expected to hear his testimony in open court after the legal dispute has been resolved.
Bankman-Fried’s trial began earlier this month, with allegations that he stole over $10 billion (£8.2 billion) from unsuspecting customers of his FTX cryptocurrency exchange.
Prosecutors claim that he utilized customer funds to make risky investments at sister trading firm Alameda Research, resulting in a significant financial shortfall when the cryptocurrency markets experienced a sharp decline.
The trading platform suddenly halted withdrawals in November of last year and subsequently went bankrupt.
The fallen entrepreneur, who is the son of two Stanford law professors, has also been accused of concealing crimes through the backdating of documents and the deletion of messages.
Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud and five counts of conspiracy. If convicted, he could face up to 115 years in prison.
FTX was once the world’s second-largest exchange, and at one point, Bankman-Fried’s net worth was valued at $32 billion (£26 billion) – placing him among A-list celebrities and seeking his advice on industry regulation from US politicians.
However, when the crisis struck, his net worth plummeted by 94% in a single day, marking the most substantial wealth collapse ever experienced by a billionaire within such a brief timeframe.
The entrepreneur’s defense team has argued that while mistakes were made, there was no intention to misappropriate funds.
They have also asserted that Bankman-Fried was spread too thin as CEO of FTX and that other senior executives failed to establish proper safeguards.