National Review

FTX tentacles stretched far across Bahamas

On October 31, FTX Digital Markets Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Zoe Gibson-Bowleg paid a courtesy call on Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander, donating tablets to the police force on the company’s behalf as FTX continued its charitable efforts across Bahamian communities – the most expansive program of giving we have ever witnessed in such a short period from any Bahamas-based entity.

It was in keeping with the commitment of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) to effective altruism, a philosophy which involves using evidence and careful reasoning to do the most good for the most people.

Just over a week after that donation to police, the dramatic implosion of FTX sent the global cryptocurrency industry reeling, brought into question the future viability of the local nascent sector and immediately halted the extraordinary level of philanthropic engagement of the company in The Bahamas and elsewhere.

On Sunday, police said in a brief statement that “in light of the collapse of FTX globally and the provisional liquidation of FTX 

Digital Markets Ltd., a team of financial investigators from the Financial Crimes Investigation Branch are working closely with the Bahamas Securities Commission to investigate if any criminal misconduct occurred”.

What a difference a few days can make.

Ever since putting its roots down in The Bahamas after arrival in the country last year, FTX, which up until last week was operating as a major player in the global cryptocurrency space, spread its tentacles into nearly every sector of the Bahamian community, pumping substantial sums of money into various causes and giving to multiple organizations.

In so doing, it quickly built its brand in the country and endeared itself, it seems, to many Bahamians – and to the Bahamas government, also a recipient of FTX benevolence.

Almost overnight, FTX was everywhere and doing big things in The Bahamas that went way beyond simply establishing a physical business presence.

In addition to the police force and the government, the church, civil society organizations, nonprofits of every kind, the cultural and sporting communities, and schools, including the University of The Bahamas, all received FTX donations or sponsorships.

We do not have evidence that FTX or Bankman-Fried donated to local political parties, though it would not surprise us if we learn that such contributions were made.

In the United States, the 30-year-old FTX founder was a major contributor to Democratic groups ahead of the recent mid-term elections.

FTX, whose now former CEO Bankman-Fried at one point had a fortune of $26 billion mainly tied up in digital assets, seemingly had an endless supply of money.

The Bahamas, though small, has endless needs and causes critically in need of funding.

So, for many Bahamian charitable organizations, Bankman-Fried and FTX Digital Markets Limited were a godsend.

Bankman-Fried had pledged to donate billions of dollars over his lifetime to charitable causes globally.

In April, he told Bloomberg he planned to keep just one percent of what he earns (around $100,000). Everything else he planned to give away in keeping with his dedication to the effective altruism movement.

Upon arrival in The Bahamas, FTX swiftly went about targeting the causes it wanted to fund and spreading altruistic joy.

In a community where nonprofits took a substantial hit during the COVID-19 pandemic and many causes suffered, Bankman-Fried was an angel doing good for so many people.

As such, it did not take long for the FTX brand to be widely established in the country. It was as if FTX had been with us for a very long time, and would be with us for a very long time to come.

In hindsight, though, some are understandably now wondering whether all the giving by FTX was part of a strategic effort to buy goodwill in Bahamian communities.


The prime minister, Philip Davis, was big on FTX after his election in September 2021. Davis repeatedly said FTX has had a positive presence in The Bahamas.

In January, FTX Digital Markets donated $1.4 million in KN95 protective masks and testing kits to the Bahamian government in an effort to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

“The donation is a significant contribution toward the government’s COVID-19 fight efforts, as the distribution of free KN95 protective masks and free testing are two of the major components of the government’s ‘Together Against COVID-19’ campaign which aims to provide support and reduce contracting the virus,” the Office of the Prime Minister said.

In March, FTX paid for the Baha Mar resort ballroom used for the state reception in honor of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, who were on an official visit.

It was a lavish affair for those invited to show off their finest attire and enjoy an evening in the presence of royalty.

FTX also funded the Hurricane Dorian Relief Gospel Concert held at Baha Mar in September. It was free to the public.

FTX was also a platinum sponsor of The Bahamas Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

In January, FTX donated $1.1 million to agricultural development in The Bahamas.

The money was given to the Agricultural Development Organization (ADO), which planned to pump $700,000 into education and tools for farmers and to conduct a study on agriculture in The Bahamas.

In April, ADO and Solutions AE then donated approximately $200,000 to the Church Commercial Farming Group. Rev. Patrick Paul accepted the donation on behalf of the Bahamas Christian Council and the Farming Group.

In January, FTX announced a partnership with the Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Research Centre (CCARR) at the University of The Bahamas with a donation of $240,000 over the next two years.

“Since launching FTX Digital Markets in The Bahamas, the reality that faces those living in small island developing states (SIDS) has become clear to us, highlighted by the impact that Hurricane Dorian has had on every Bahamian we meet,” FTX Climate said.

The University of The Bahamas called it “an exciting new partnership”.

Allyson Maynard-Gibson, King’s Counsel, the first female to chair the Board of Trustees of the University of The Bahamas, led the legal team that resulted in FTX Digital Markets Limited becoming the first exchange to be registered under the Digital Assets and Registered Exchanges Act (“DARE Act”).

In January, FTX also donated over $500,000 to civic groups to fund their charitable work.

FTX said, “The gifts will be used to support feeding initiatives, women’s shelters and community outreach programs that positively impact the quality of life for Bahamians and residents.”

The Bahamas Cancer Society with the Ride for Hope and also its golf tournament received $50,000; Hands for Hunger received $250,000; the Links Safe House received $100,000; the Nassau Chapter of Links Incorporated received $20,000; the Occupy Mentorship program received $25,000, the Salvation Army received $50,000 and the “Singing Bishop” Lawrence Rolle, who wept at his donation, received $50,000.

Valdez K Russell, FTX’s vice president of communications and corporate social responsibility, said the company was only getting started with giving.

“The recognition and collaboration and applause are owed really to each of you, the ones who till the soil, build the relationships and make things happen in such a way that mothers, women and children can have more dignity, can have more access to a better life,” Russell said.

In February, FTX invited representatives of various Grand Bahama nonprofits to breakfast and surprised them with up to a quarter of a million dollars in donations.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Cancer Society of Grand Bahama, Grand Bahama Down Syndrome Society, YMCA Grand Bahama, the Regency Theatre, and the Humane Society of Grand Bahama were some of the organizations that received donations from FTX.

“It’s Christmas here in Grand Bahama,” remarked one of the nonprofits’ officials.

In February, the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) said it anticipates being able to complete the first phase of its Science Technology Education and Maintenance (STEM) building at Warderick Wells, the headquarters of the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park), by year’s end thanks to generous gifts from FTX Digital Markets and the Leticia and Eduardo Azar Foundation.

Their combined gifts will cover the cost of the initial build-out for the $1.6 million STEM building, BNT said.

In March, FTX donated $100,000 to the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture for the 2022 CARIFTA Championships. Both the swimming and track and field federations received an additional $10,000 each for a total of $120,000.

In April, the Bahamas Alliance for Animal Rights and Kindness (Baark!) announced that FTX donated $100,000 to support its much-anticipated Mobile Spay and Neuter Clinic.

“At FTX, our commitment is to create a better world through supporting causes and commitments that will improve the quality of life for humanity. We achieve better results through collaborating with organizations that are identifying solutions to vexing problems that require immediate action,” said Gibson-Bowleg, the FTX representative.

In May, FTX sponsored a Bahamian group of artists to showcase their talents at Miami Beach Race Weekend Festival.

In September, FTX donated 100 laptops to the Ministry of Education.

Then-Director of Education Marcellus Taylor thanked the company for being responsible corporate citizens and said the laptops will go a long way in assisting teachers in carrying out their duties.

FTX committed to donating a total of 400 laptops to the ministry in the weeks that followed.

Much of the giving Bankman-Fried and FTX have done has been through the FTX Future Foundation, which “works to save lives, prevent suffering, and help build a flourishing future”.

On the foundation’s website, Apostle Valentine Johnson of Kingdom Life Ministries, said, “We are so grateful for such a timely and heartfelt donation. It will allow us to refresh our benevolence program and upgrade our pantry voucher feeding exchange program, which is designed to empower those we assist by allowing them to purchase food items with vouchers. Thank you, FTX, for your commitment to making a difference in the lives of Grand Bahamians.”

Ray Ferguson, president of Fast Track Athletics, who is also quoted on the foundation’s site, “applauded FTX Foundation for its efforts to make a difference in the lives of our Bahamian people”.

There are other donations made by FTX locally that are not mentioned here.

National Review has thus far been unable to determine whether all of the agencies and individuals who FTX announced were receiving or had received donations in fact got the full commitments.

In an online article on Monday, Forbes said, “Individuals and organizations promised funds from the FTX Foundation are now grappling with the fallout, according to several that spoke with Forbes. One group says that it didn’t receive any funds at all from Future Fund, while another received only part of what had been promised. At least two that did receive money admit to feeling guilty or even looking to rid themselves of the capital.”

It was not a specific reference to Bahamian individuals and organizations.

This source of funding for various initiatives of the Bahamas government and nonprofit organizations in the country has now evaporated.

The FTX Foundation Future Fund team resigned on Thursday.

The team said, “We are now unable to perform our work or process grants, and we have fundamental questions about the legitimacy and integrity of the business operations that were funding the FTX Foundation and the Future Fund. As a result, we resigned earlier today.”


In addition to the philanthropic fallout of FTX for The Bahamas, there is also a widespread economic blow that has not yet been fully assessed.

The company broke ground in April on a $60 million headquarters in western New Providence, with Bankman-Fried saying The Bahamas was the envy of so many other jurisdictions.

In April, Crypto Bahamas, a major cryptocurrency currency conference, injected what officials estimated was $12 million into the local economy.

In June 2022, FTX and SALT announced the second annual Crypto Bahamas will take place next April, and will take over the entire Baha Mar Resort.

Those plans went up in smoke when FTX crashed and burned in dramatic fashion.

The company also reportedly invested $74 million on real estate in The Bahamas.

And we have been told that many vendors have come to depend on FTX for a steady stream of income received from lucrative contracts in recent months.

Like the generous philanthropic efforts, those have all dried up.

Show More

Candia Dames

Candia Dames is the executive editor of The Nassau Guardian.

Related Articles

Check Also
Back to top button