Two luxury aircrafts purportedly owned by the former CEO of the collapsed crypto exchange Sam Bankman-Fried but never used by him could potentially face forfeiture as U.S. prosecutors seek to recover assets in ongoing legal proceedings.
The two jets—a Bombardier Global 5000 BD-700-1A11 with registration number N410AT and an Embraer Legacy EMB-135BJ with a registration number C6-BDE—are listed as part of assets belonging to Bankman-Fried, according to a Wednesday filing by the Department of Justice.
FTX debtors claimed ownership of the planes in August, with one of them—the Bombardier Global—having been in government custody since February.
The ownership, however, is disputed by Island Air Capital (IAC), a Bahama-based charter flight operator, which claims it originally purchased both jets for $15.9 million and $12.5 million, respectively, using financing provided by FTX.
The dispute revolves around whether the planes were purchased with funds obtained through alleged fraudulent activities, as asserted by the Government, or whether FTX has legitimate ownership claims based on purported loans that financed the acquisitions.
“IAC owns the Legacy and the Global, two airplanes that they purchased using financing provided from FTX,” reads a September 21 filing submitted by IAC with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware. “The Aircraft Loan was in the form of an unsecured, no-interest loan agreed to in a handshake deal between FTX’s then-CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and IAC’s beneficial owner, Mr. Aranha.”
The purchases were made in March 2022 and August 2022, respectively, per court filings.
‘No reason to question’ the source of FTX funds: IAC
According to IAC, Aranha obtained approval from FTX for the purchase of both aircraft. The deposits—originating from Alameda Research and North Dimension—were wired directly into escrow.
The company further stated in court filings that Aranha “was unaware of, and had no reason to suspect, the fraud at FTX, and he had no reason to question the source of funds FTX used to finance the aircraft.”
The IAC owner himself is also described as “one of largest Bahamian victims of the SBF’s cryptocurrency fraud.”
Following FTX’s collapse, IAC returned the Embraer Legacy jet to the Bahamas to put it to use, while taking steps to sell Bombardier Global to use the proceeds to repay the outstanding aircraft loan.
AIC claimed it has received “multiple offers for the Global in excess of $15 million,” however, “those marketing and sales efforts were interrupted when the U.S. Marshals Service seized the Global on February 8, 2023.”
The planes, both listed by airplane tracking service Flightradar24 as having “private” owners (here and here), were never used by anyone associated with FTX, as they were still being upgraded when the company filed for bankruptcy in November 2022, with IAC also requesting to know who will pay for ongoing repairs and inspections while the dispute is settled.
According to court documents, Aranha had informed the Supreme Court-appointed liquidators of his intention to operate the Legacy and sell the Global in order to repay the remaining aircraft loan.
The latest development comes as the trial of SBF began on Tuesday in New York, with the fallen crypto mogul facing charges related to defrauding FTX customers, including accusations of wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering.