In the Bahamas, a lingering crush on Sam Bankman-Fried

As a self-proclaimed standard-bearer for the crypto industry at large, Mr. Bankman-Fried was working to diversify the economy of an island that has long sought to expand beyond tourism, and which was hit by a drop in visitors caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. He helped organize a spring crypto conference that drew hundreds of wealthy visitors. In Albany, the waterfront complex where he and his associates lived, they were known as generous businessmen; a delivery driver said he was paid more than $100 to bring a modest Burger King order to a cryptocurrency investor.

In some cases, residents’ attitudes reflect simple empathy. “I feel bad for him,” said Philip Butler, an elder at Christian Life Church in Nassau.

FTX’s new CEO, John Ray, in congressional testimony this month accused Bahamian authorities of illegally withdrawing $100 million from the cryptocurrency exchange in the hours before it collapsed. Mr. Ray called the process “untidy” and said authorities have scaled back their efforts to get answers. The Bahamas’ securities regulator denied this in a statement.

In the Bahamas, the overall crime rate is low, but those found guilty often receive long sentences. Fox Hill, where Mr. Bankman-Fried was held, it is known locally as “Fox Hell”. It is bursting with 1,400 prisoners – 40 percent more than it was built to house – and has little running water, which often comes out brown, according to former prisoners and their families.

A former inmate released this year, Sean Hall, said a typical breakfast was grilled sardines, in a flowery mug. For lunch, unseasoned ground meat with rice is common. Dinner is often not delivered at all. Violence was common, both at the hands of guards and fellow inmates.

By Fox Hill standards, Mr. Bankman-Fried received royal treatment. He was held in the prison’s medical wing with up to five other inmates in a dormitory-style room that was under constant supervision, according to the administrator. Vegan, they gave him toast and jam for breakfast; for lunch and dinner, I had stewed vegetables and other vegetables.

Even so, prison conditions weighed on Mr. Bankman-Fried’s decision to cut a deal with U.S. prosecutors to be extradited to the United States, according to a person briefed on the discussions.

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