Prime Minister Gaston Browne speaks on the FTX Scandal, says parent company is located in Antigua and Barbuda

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne is seeking to remove Antigua and Barbuda’s name from the FTX Scandal.

He addressed the issue extensively when he spoke on Pointe FM on Saturday. Listen to him below:

It’s a collapse that some have called crypto’s “Lehman moment.”

The bankruptcy of the crypto giant FTX and the resignation of its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, has left customers in limbo and investors writing off what once looked like the next big thing in tech.

And it happened in a matter of days. But in the complex world of crypto, such a collapse can be hard to parse. Here’s the basics of what went down:

What is FTX?

FTX is a digital currency exchange, a platform where people could buy and sell digital assets like bitcoin, dogecoin and ether. Such platforms rose in popularity in recent years as more people looked to invest in cryptocurrencies without the hassle of dealing with the technical side of such transactions, such as setting up a crypto wallet.

How did it become so big?

The company, founded in 2019, quickly rose to international prominence through a series of high-profile acquisitions, aggressive marketing strategies and low trading fees. Competitor  platforms include Kraken, Coinbase and Gemini.

Even those unfamiliar with the technology were lured to FTX with promises that they could park their money in accounts and earn much higher yields than at traditional banks.

Major venture capital groups also bought in, investing almost $2 billion in the company.

Sam Bankman-Fried, FTX’s 30-year-old founder, became the face of the company and, to some, crypto at large. Celebrity endorsements and major sports sponsorships made FTX hard to miss.

The first red flags

Not long after Bankman-Fried started FTX, crypto began to boom. The price of bitcoin, which had traded at around $10,000, shot up in 2021, peaking at more than $64,000. Venture capital money flooded into all things blockchain and crypto, and crypto platforms moved to attract customers beyond the technologists and blockchain evangelists that once fueled its rise.

The price of bitcoin, generally seen as an indicator of the broader crypto market, declined dramatically from its late 2021 heights. It now trades at around $16,000. Other crypto and token values followed suit.

The broader crypto industry decline had already forced many major platforms to shut down, but FTX seemed immune, even buying up some of its struggling competitors.

But things began to change earlier this month, when the balance sheet of a crypto investing firm that was also owned by Bankman-Fried, Alameda Research, was published by CoinDesk, a crypto-focused digital media website.

It showed that Alameda held a large amount of a digital currency created by FTX called FTT. And though that FTT held a certain market value, if the price were to drop,  Alameda would be at risk of insolvency.

What is FTT?

FTT is a digital token created by FTX that is similar to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Many crypto platforms now create their own tokens as a way to encourage people to use their services by offering perks associated with their tokens. As such, tokens can act like stock in the platform.

These digital tokens use blockchain technology, in which computers contribute to a shared ledger that can be used to track digital assets. The first blockchain project, bitcoin, relies on many computers competing against one another to create a distributed system that no one computer can control.

But not all blockchains, cryptocurrencies or tokens work the same way, and many are no longer distributed as bitcoin. Tokens on a blockchain can be created by a single entity, as was the case with FTT, which was minted by FTX and given out as rewards to users. FTT was also less transparent than other tokens, making it hard to track just how many tokens had been created. People could buy and sell FTT, but trading was relatively limited. Other platforms also held the token.

A virtual bank run

After Alameda’s balance sheet was leaked, Changpeng “CZ’’ Zhao, CEO of the crypto platform Binance, a rival of FTX, announced on Nov. 6 that his company would sell off all its FTT tokens. The price of FTT dropped sharply.

As the price dropped, many FTX customers moved to withdraw their assets from the platform. Though the extent of the connections between Alameda and FTX were not yet public, a series of recent crypto platform collapses had already put the crypto community on edge.

Those withdrawals would end up resembling a classic bank run, in which people worried about a bank’s solvency rush to get their money out before it runs out of cash. Billions of dollars poured out of the platform.

On Nov. 8, FTX stopped allowing customers to take money out of the platform.

An unbalanced balance sheet

What was not yet public was the extent of the connections between Alameda and FTX, or just how bad things had gotten for Bankman-Fried’s companies.

Those connections began to become clearer in the days following FTX’s move to stop withdrawals, as would its financial challenges. Media organizations including Bloomberg, the Financial TimesThe Wall Street Journal and others cited anonymous sources saying that  FTX needed $8 billion to cover the gap between what it owed and what it could pay out. NBC News has not verified those reports, and Bankman-Fried said in an interview Monday with a Vox journalist over Twitter DM that he needed to raise $8 billion in the next two weeks to make things right with account holders.

Sam Bankman-Fried on Capitol Hill on Sept. 15.
Sam Bankman-Fried on Capitol Hill on Sept. 15.Graeme Sloan / Sipa USA via AP

The Wall Street Journal and CNBC, also citing anonymous sources, reported that Alameda had used FTX funds for trading.

And in the Vox interview, Bankman-Fried appeared to confirm reports that funds had moved between FTX and Alameda, adding that he “thought Alameda had enough collateral” to cover the moves.

Soon after that, blockchain analysts tracked the flow of $400 million of assets out of FTX accounts, though it was unclear why those funds had been moved.

In a series of text messages to Reuters, Bankman-Fried denied funds had been furtively funneled from one company to the other. He blamed the transfers on an internal mislabeling issue.

However, it is difficult to ascertain how and why the company’s funds were handled the way they were, according to a court filing from FTX’s current CEO, John Ray, who helped navigate Enron through its corporate bankruptcy process in the early 2000s.

That’s because FTX and its sister companies allegedly didn’t follow standard financial reporting procedures.

Normally, a business produces balance sheets several times a year that provide reliable information on the company’s assets (what the business owns) and its liabilities (what it owes), among other things. But the balance sheets of Bankman-Fried’s firms were never audited, according to the company’s bankruptcy court filings, meaning there is no reliable account or paper trail of what money the company had and where it went.

Ray called FTX’s poor management and financial opacity “unprecedented.”

“Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here.”

Ray wrote that the company has thus far secured $740 million of cryptocurrency held by the various companies that made up FTX and Alameda, a number that is only a “fraction” of what they hope to recover.

A lifeline yanked away

Before the full extent of the crisis became public, and desperate to keep his companies afloat, Bankman-Fried grasped for a lifeline as signs of a broader crypto crash loomed.

Zhao, one of FTX’s first investors, stepped in to make a play for his former rival. On Nov. 8, he announced that Binance would purchase FTX for an undisclosed amount in what would essentially constitute a bailout for the beleaguered firm. But Binance quickly backed out, with Zhao citing reports that FTX had mismanaged user funds and information gleaned during the standard due diligence process that accompanies such deals.

Binance Co-Founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao
Binance Co-Founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao speaks at the Web Summit in Lisbon on Nov. 1..Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP – Getty Images

Bankman-Fried has acknowledged the company’s problems on Twitter, where he remains active. Last week he posted a lengthy thread that started “1) I’m sorry. That’s the biggest thing.”

“I f—– up, and should have done better,” he added.

Last Friday, Nov. 11, Bankman-Fried stepped down as CEO of FTX, and the companies he oversaw filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press, citing anonymous sources, have both reported that FTX now faces investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice. NBC News has not verified those reports.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Look how this idiot and fool of a Prime Minister gets loud and comments on matters pertaining to him, Gaston Browne gets all defensive.

    WHAT A WEIRD MAN!

    However, when the country, economy and the hard working citizens are suffering bad, bad, bad; you can’t find he or hear anything from he. Strange that?

    Prime Minister we the citizens of Antigua & Barbuda elected you do govern with integrity, honesty and to safeguard us with strength and worldly authority.

    Look what we’ve got instead, division; dishonesty; and double-dealings.

    CALL THE ELECTION AND GET OUT, SO THAT ANTIGUANS AND THE COUNTRY CAN COME TOGETHER AND HEAL AND RECOVER …

    Go before you bring more shame and disgrace on proud Antiguans … giddy-up!

  2. In a subdued , sometimes breathless tone, the PM CONFUSED AND CONTRADICTED himself as he tried to slither out of this scandal. Sorry GASTON, YOU are being watched.
    You admitted that you took a private plane to the Bahamas to meet with Samuel.
    We are just asking, did you ask for money for the election?
    This is the beginning of the end

  3. It is strange that a person of interest transferred all their assets to a family member before this scandal broke?
    Do this constitute insider trading? I’m the US many have gone to jail for such.
    I’m curious to know.

  4. I reminded you all some 9 months ago that the ALPAHABET BOYS had a particular individual in their cross hairs. The former Meini Bank once controlled by Brazilian influence was involved in MAJOR money laundering. That bank became insolvent and rebranded as Caribbean Union Bank(CUB) under the directorship of Anthony Stewart. With another individual who is very popular politician.

    Interesting enough that Bank was purchased by GOAB. We need a timeline as to when the the Bank became under ownership of the government. Who capitalize the bank with liquidity?

    Interesting enough as the “FTX PONZI SHECME” began to grow and develop into an alternative to regulatory banking in Antigua and Barbuda a very politician was pushing the technology as a way of conducting business in Antigua. Machines were installed to convert EC dolllars into crypto currency. Merchants were encouraged to accept crypto as alternative method of payment.

    The next 90 days are going to very interesting. Ask Jack Warner if you don’t know how far the tentacles of Alphabet BOYS can reach. You do not have to be US citizen or Resident for the LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO REACH YOU. All it takes is one fraudulent transaction using EFT’s to transfer funds between an individual using the wire system of America!

    They “coming down to talk to you again.”

  5. Well the three buses gifted to the people of Antigua and Barbuda by Tiawan,l is still in the possession of private citizens. What else in new? Chupts

  6. The license was not issued for an Antigua operation therefore there’s no exposure to the country. Submitting an application does not aromatically give a company the right to operate. FDX was not a stock traded company like Coinbase or Gemini. A lot of crypto firms are not regulated or on the stock markets. Its a new industry and risky venture. The liability is on the Bahamas, that have seized FDX’s assets. Antigua is not liable in this case.

  7. @wish upon a well…I AM A BORN ANTIGUAN WHO LIVE AND VOTE IN THE US. I OWN PROPERTY THERE AND HAVE A RIGHT TO AN OPINION. UNLIKE YOU WHO CAN ONLY THINK PER YOUR SIMPLE POLITICAL OPINION. MY OPINION WAS BASED IN THE TOPIC NOT POLITICS.

  8. It’s funny how people quibble in the defense of I’ll gotten riches..lol. corruption will always reach the shores of Antigua, that’s how it has been from the inception of ANU independence, it’s just a matter of who shove their noses in the pot first.

  9. Antigua has always been known to be in bed with crooked Investors. Folks get the book entitled:My Life In The Mafia by Vincent Theresa. You would see what he had to say about the Administration of the day,THE LABOR PARTY.

  10. As the leader of any nation, they should know everything big and small and everything in between.

    Listen to Gaston Browne trying to play ignorant of everything that went on with FTX. If the necessary paperwork was not in place here, why did Gaston Browne not do anything about it? As minister of finance, his department, he controls everything that goes on in our island. He should also be vetting everyone that comes to do business in our country. Things were going good and now everything gone tits up, Gaston Browne playing stupid and ignorant about FTX. Not only that, he now throwing his fellow comrade(s) under the bus as usual.

    Well the saying goes, give and idiot enough rope, he will eventually hang himself. All this falls under Antigua’s minister of finance and listen how he playing he was clueless of the goings on. No business license was granted but yet they were allowed to run a business here. He must think we all stupid to believe his lies. He can’t control what a foreign business does? What ignorance is this? We can’t go to any other foreign country and set up any business and run one without all the necessary paperwork in place. Gaston had nothing to say while all this was going on and now shit hit the fan he trying to weasel out of it. As Gaston stated all of a sudden Bankman become billionaire overnight, we want to know how you Gaston become millionaire overnight. Your salary does not pay enough for you to become a millionaire overnight. We asking the same question.

    Gaston Browne time soon come. He didn’t learn his lesson in the past and now here he is on a bigger scale. The

    Under ABLP pensioners not getting paid
    Under ABLP govt workers not getting paid
    Under ABLP Jolly Beach employees not getting paid
    Under ABLP LIAT workers not getting the funds owed to them
    Under ABLP we still can’t get water daily
    Under ABLP we still getting power cuts
    Under ABLP Nigel Christian was murdered
    Under ABLP Mehul Choksi was kidnapped to Dominica

    All those ass kissers who continue to sing praises for Gaston, who’s ass you going to kiss next? Don’t worry we know who all all you be and when your master go down, all all you going down with he.

    All Bullshit Lying Politicians done.

  11. If, according to this guy, there is nothing to worry about, why the long-winded, often contradictory, confusing ramblings? Why was it necessary for Thomas to resign, if all is well? Something stinks here, and you get the sense that all is not what he purports. This man lies so much, I doubt he knows what truth is. Therefore, when he speaks, it just smoke, and where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Oh, Antigua and Barbuda, you have reach so low, what will become of you if this continues?

  12. Poor Antigua. My God!! what’s next? I wish that Antiguans will vote a new administration into office next election. One who will demonstrate that that are they are in office for ALL ANTIGUANS and not just for family, friends and wealthy investors. Dump the POINT BULLY.

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