Sam Bankman-Fried, who previously worked in the cryptocurrency industry, has been charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Business Practices Act for allegedly bribing unidentified Chinese officials. The indictment claims that Bankman-Fried transferred $40 million in cryptocurrency to a Chinese official to unfreeze Alameda’s accounts at two of China’s largest crypto exchanges. The authorities had frozen the accounts due to their alleged ties to Alameda’s trading partner, prompting Bankman-Fried to pay the bribe in November 2021. The rest of the bribe was paid after he received confirmation that the accounts were unfrozen. Fan Yifei, a former deputy governor in charge of the People’s Bank of China’s cryptocurrency regulation, was detained in November 2022 for “suspected serious violations of discipline and law.” However, there are no official links between Fan and Bankman-Fried or cryptocurrency corruption.
China has adopted a tough stance on cryptocurrencies, issuing an order to “clean up and ban” crypto and financing through coin offerings in September 2021. Since Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign began in 2012, nearly 5 million Party members have been investigated on corruption charges. In his ongoing push against graft, Xi has warned against “any infiltration of capital into politics that undermines the political ecosystem or the environment for economic development.” The hunt for corruption has extended beyond Chinese borders, with China’s anti-corruption agency announcing it will deploy inspectors to Chinese embassies around the world to pursue fugitive officials and their ill-gotten gains abroad.