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Ryan Salame, a former executive of now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange FTX, has declined to testify about his involvement in an alleged illegal campaign donation scheme. 

According to a motion filed by U.S. federal prosecutors on Monday, Salame’s attorney has said that, if subpoenaed, he intends to invoke his Fifth Amendment right.

The Fifth Amendment is a constitutional protection against self-incrimination that protects criminal defendants from having to testify if they may incriminate themselves through the testimony.

As of yet, Salame has not been charged with a crime, though he is accused of using customer funds to donate more than $24 million to Republican candidates in 2022. 

Salame’s role in alleged illegal campaign donations has been under investigation since FTX experienced a downfall last year. 

Last month, it was revealed that federal prosecutors in Manhattan were probing whether Salame and his girlfriend Michelle Bond, a former congressional candidate, unlawfully evaded federal limits on campaign contributions.

At the time, reports said the investigators were focused on the money Salame donated to Bond, as well as loans she made to her campaign. 

Salame’s decision not to testify is reportedly linked to a private message he allegedly shared with a “trusted family member” in November 2021. 

In the message, he purportedly admitted his involvement in the donation scheme. 

The message suggests that former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried aimed to donate funds to both Democratic and Republican candidates during the 2022 election cycle. 

However, Salame objected to this approach, reasoning that it would alienate members from both parties. 

Instead, Salame proposed making bipartisan donations to weed out anti-crypto Democrats and anti-crypto Republicans and support pro-crypto candidates.

The motion filed by prosecutors maintains that Salame’s private message is incriminating evidence, directly implicating him in alleged fraud and money laundering schemes. 

Consequently, his decision not to testify can be viewed as a strategic move to protect himself against potential self-incrimination.

Sam Bankman-Fried Hit With New Charges After Being Jailed

Sam Bankman-Fried is facing new allegations from the Department of Justice (DOJ), including the embezzlement of customer funds. 

According to an indictment filed on Monday, Bankman-Fried is accused of misappropriating and embezzling customer deposits from FTX, using the stolen funds to make over $100 million in political campaign contributions ahead of the 2022 US midterm elections.

The indictment says that while Bankman-Fried was well aware of FTX’s financial shortfall, he continued to use the embezzled money for his personal investments, acquisitions, and campaign contributions.

“Yet he continued through FTX’s collapse in November 2022 to use misappropriated customer funds to pay for his investments, acquisitions, and campaign contributions,” the indictment read. 

The new charges against Bankman-Fried came after US District Judge Lewis Kaplan sent the disgraced crypto boss back to jail last week over alleged witness tampering.

The judge said that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant attempted to tamper with witnesses on at least two occasions.

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