Sam Bankman-Fried Built a Crypto Paradise in the Bahamas—Now He’s a Bad Memory


Every Sunday morning, the congregation of the Worldwide Deliverance Praying Ministry gathers in entrance of their church, able to be let in. It’s a modest constructing within the southside of Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, on an overgrown and potholed road that floods when it rains. Whereas they wait, a member of the church comes round to take names and write them onto small, pink slips of paper. The slips are folded, tucked right into a field, and later drawn in a lottery. The 30 or so individuals chosen are given a care bundle of water and groceries.

On this a part of Nassau, out of view of the opulent resorts and sandy seashores for which the Bahamas are identified, provisions like these are scarce as a result of cash is tight. Because the care packages are handed out, the congregation hollers and applauds.

Led by Bishop Lawrence Rolle, identified domestically because the Singing Bishop for his animated vocal shows, the church depends on donations to fund its neighborhood feeding program, which serves hundreds of individuals annually. In early 2022, it obtained the biggest single donation in its historical past: $50,000, given by cryptocurrency alternate FTX, which had arrange within the Bahamas just a few months earlier. This was one among tens of contributions the corporate made to native nonprofits round that point. “FTX was a blessing,” says Rolle. “It helped a number of poor individuals.”

On October 15, Rolle started Sunday service by inviting church members to offer testimony—a public career of their religion. The speeches started steadily, with due to God for an act of therapeutic or steering, then they elevated in fervor and quantity to a degree of climax. Some audio system threw their arms skyward, shouting “hallelujah,” whereas others bent double and started to convulse. A lady wearing black stood close by, able to catch anybody who may fall.

A number of days earlier, in Manhattan, New York, a unique type of testimony had taken place. FTX’s founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, is standing trial on seven counts of fraud in reference to the collapse of the exchange in November 2022. The courtroom was packed for the prosecution’s star witness, Caroline Ellison, CEO of FTX’s sibling firm, Alameda Analysis (and Bankman-Fried’s former girlfriend). FTX had spent billions of {dollars} on dangerous trades, private loans, debt repayments, political donations, and enterprise bets, and on glossing the picture of its founder, Ellison stated. However that cash—and subsequently probably the cash obtained by Rolle’s church—had been stolen, based on Ellison. It belonged to FTX clients.

The cash FTX gave to the Worldwide Deliverance Praying Ministry could also be “lengthy gone,” as Rolle places it, however the alternate’s demise has left a long-lasting imprint on the Bahamas, which, deservedly or in any other case, have been tarnished by affiliation. Locals like Rolle have been left conflicted, directly grateful for FTX’s contributions, fearful somebody may come asking for the cash again, and appalled by the alleged theft and its implications for his or her nation. Nearly a 12 months after the collapse, the now-infamous three-letter acronyms—SBF and FTX—are spoken aloud solely reluctantly within the Bahamas; the subject has develop into taboo. Nonetheless, beneath strain to inject life into an economic system depending on tourism and hit hard by the Covid pandemic, the federal government is forging forward with its plan to draw crypto companies to its shores.

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