Home News ‘The money’s gone’: The Bahamas try to turn the page after FTX

‘The money’s gone’: The Bahamas try to turn the page after FTX

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Dressed in a blue suit on a hot December night, sweat dripping from his brow, Bishop Lawrence Rule uttered the words in his final song to the hundreds of children and adults who had gathered to celebrate Christmas.

“FTX! He sings while bowing and nodding his head. “The money is gone!”

“FTX! His backing vocalist and boisterous audience. “The money is gone!”

The change of cryptocurrency FTX is now aware of the joy of the corona in the efforts of the government of Bahamas for the destination monday for all that concerns cryptocurrency after an economic trop dependent on tourism and from the bank. Instead, FTX has gone bankrupt and the Bahamians are trying to figure out what’s next for their country and if their national crypto experiment has failed. Regulators are trying to identify missing funds from FTX clients.

Meanwhile, charities like Rolle and scores of now-unemployed entrepreneurs are hoping another business will come along and bring new opportunities to the island nation, without the complexities and embarrassment of an alleged multi-billion dollar scam.

Rolle, a Pentecostal preacher known as the “Singing Bishop”, is a prominent figure in the Bahamas. For decades, he cooked food, donated it to the poor, and served school lunches in his neighborhood kitchen at the Ministry of International Prayer in Over the Hill, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the capital, Nassau. Rolle and his staff feed about 2,500 people a week.

Rolle is invited by Kirby Samuel, president of Mount Carmel Preparatory Academy, to sing as part of the school’s Christmas celebration. His work mostly consisted of half a dozen Afro-Caribbean gospel songs, but one number-one hit on his social media emerged around FTX’s recent breakup.

Rolle’s ministry received $50,000 from FTX in early 2022, one of many donations FTX made to the people of the Bahamas when they moved to the Caribbean island nation in 2021. It’s the money that was used to restore a food storage trailer and make additional food donations. , He said. Roll said it costs more than $10,000 a week to run the food donation program.

Asked about the failure of FTX, Roll called it a sad distraction from the many problems facing the country. Others are angry, especially with Sam Bankman and founder of Young FTX. The Bahamas, like some other Caribbean islands, is notorious for being a destination for illicit and offshore financing. Cryptocurrency was thought to allow the island to diversify its economy, give the Bahamas more financial opportunities, and generally help secure a more prosperous future for the country.

The country enacted the Digital Assets and Registered Exchanges Act in 2020, making the Bahamas one of the first countries to set up a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and other digital assets. Premier Philip Davis attended the groundbreaking ceremony for FTX’s new $60 million headquarters in Nassau in April, along with Bankman-Fried.

“Their arrival was kind of a culmination of the work Bahamians have done to move in this direction,” said Stephen Delevue, President and CEO of the Caribbean Blockchain Association.

Many other crypto companies and startups are headquartered in the Bahamas, some in an incubator known as Crypto Isle not far from downtown Nassau.

Deleveaux said he became interested in cryptocurrency as early as 2014 and primarily tried to focus his foundation’s efforts on non-commercial parts of crypto, such as blockchain technology, financial inclusion and uses. Still skeptical about cryptocurrency trading.

It’s frustrating. Now when people think of cryptocurrency, they think of FTX.” “It will make my job more difficult.”

In some ways, said Bahamians, FTX was ubiquitous and isolated from the local community. Its ads were everywhere, including at Nassau Airport in the tourist arrivals hall. But at the same time, FTX ran most of its operations out of the safe luxury resort known as Albany, where residents like Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake could be spotted regularly. Albany is across from New Providence, the most populous island in the Bahamas and the location of Nassau.

“You don’t take a casual walk around Albany,” said Delvaux.

A bartender at a Margaritaville resort, where FTX handled an unpaid $55,000 tab, described a group of 10 to 15 white FTX employees who dined at the restaurant, their faces buried in their laptops the entire time. While FTX employed or subcontracted to Bahamian companies, it was almost entirely for logistical functions such as construction, porter services, or catering.

Once FTX was well established in the Bahamas’ elite circles, it all fell apart. FTX Spectacular Failure In early November, it went from fulfillment to bankruptcy in less than a week. A restaurant worker said he had to lay off most of his staff after FTX, his largest contract, went bankrupt.

Banker Freed, 30, was arrested last month in the Bahamas and brought to the United States to face criminal charges in what US Attorney General Damian Williams called “one of the largest frauds in American history.” The floppy-haired crypto entrepreneur was out on bail and due to go to trial in October.

Meanwhile, law enforcement and regulators in the US and the Bahamas, along with lawyers and FTX’s new management, are trying to determine how much investor and client money is “missing,” as Bishop Rolle frequently repeats in his song. Estimates of the amount of money lost in the FTX crash have varied widely as some assets are still being recovered, but one estimate puts the losses at around $8-10 billion.

“Like the rest of the world, I’ve been glued to my television since the accident[FTX] Samuel, director of Mount Carmel, said in an interview.

However, other Bahamians said the collapse of FTX distracted from the lingering issues facing the Caribbean nation.

The Bahamas’ economy has been strained during the coronavirus pandemic. The country effectively banned foreign visitors for about two years and only started allowing cruise ships to dock at its famous pier about eight months ago. In Nassau, there is ample evidence of the economic toll of the pandemic. The British Colonial Hotel, best known for being the location of the James Bond movie Never Say Never Again, closed in February. The rooms were once $400 a night there.

Despite miles of pristine beaches, beautiful resorts, and the richest economy in the Caribbean, the Bahamas remains a country riven by inequality. The taxi drivers said they couldn’t even get a $6,000 loan to buy their own car. According to the country’s central bank, nearly one in five Bahamas does not have a bank account.

Late last year, the Bahamian government should have done just that: impose price controls on dozens of staple foods in a desperate attempt to fight inflation.

FTX officials seem to understand that food and hunger are an issue that must be addressed in order to develop goodwill with its new neighbors. In addition to donating $50,000 to the Rolle Ministry, FTX donated $250,000 to Hands for Hunger and invested $1.1 million in a new nonprofit organization known as the Committee on Development, Agriculture, focused on strengthening the country’s food security. The committee’s founder, Philip Smith, did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the donation.

With FTX filing for bankruptcy, there has been speculation in the Bahamian media as to whether Rolle should return the $50,000 donation, which he says was spent about a month after receiving it.

“We cut this money as best we could, by buying flour and rice,” Roll said. There are many hungry people. »

Samuel of Mount Carmel said: “It is a difficult matter for the bishop, but there is one thing I think every person in the country will agree on: whatever they gave him, he did not spend it on himself.”

“I wish there were better companies out there than FTX,” Roll said. “A lot of our children don’t have a father, or we have parents who have two, four, five kids, or the kids don’t have a father. We can hardly feed them. I pray someone will come and make an additional donation.”

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