Suit: SBF Had Eye on Buying Money-Laundering Haven

FTX founder wanted to scoop up island nation of Nauru, build bunker for the apocalypse, per suit
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2023 9:20 AM CDT
Suit: SBF Wanted to Buy Island, Build Bunker for End-Times
FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaves Manhattan federal court in New York on Feb. 16.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Sam Bankman-Fried likely had a lot of plans for the billions of dollars once in his digital wallet, but one that hasn't been talked about yet was his idea to scoop up an island nation, build a bunker for himself and other elites in his movement, and ride out the apocalypse. That revelation comes in a new complaint filed last week by FTX, the crypto company Bankman-Fried founded, against SBF and three other ex-FTX execs, with a memo from Bankman-Fried's younger brother, Gabriel Bankman-Fried, outlining the potential purchase, per the Guardian.

The $1 billion suit on "one of the largest financial frauds in history," filed Thursday in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware, points to the memo exchanged between the younger Bankman-Fried and an FTX Foundation officer. It details a plan to "purchase the sovereign nation of Nauru in order to construct a 'bunker/shelter' that would be used for 'some event where 50%-99.99% of people die [to] ensure that most EAs [effective altruists] survive.'" Effective altruism is a controversial movement that's arisen over the past 10 years or so that counts the world's wealthiest among its adherents, with the goal to raise as much wealth as possible to mitigate some of the world's biggest issues.

The memo also talked of creating "sensible regulation around human genetic enhancement," and to construct a lab of some sort in the Micronesian state. The correspondence also noted that "probably there are other things it's useful to do with a sovereign country, too," though the memo didn't elaborate on what that meant. Quartz, does, however, provide more context on Nauru, located a couple of thousand miles northeast of Australia: It's notorious for money laundering. The Guardian notes the island became especially useful for that purpose in the '90s for Russian mobsters and al-Qaeda.

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Things got so bad that in 2002, the US Treasury officially declared Naura a money-laundering state. What Sam Bankman-Fried apparently hoped to do with both FTX and Nauru are eyebrow-raising partly because it seems to contrast with what the effective altruism movement is all about. Quartz notes that SBF's plans were basically to "make a few people very rich illegally, and use that money to hunker down on their own island, set their own rules, and escape a global calamity even as the world outside burned on." Bankman-Fried has been on home confinement at his parents' California home since his extradition from the Bahamas to the US in December. (More Sam Bankman-Fried stories.)

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