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The trial for Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the former boyfriend and business associate of fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, has begun.
Opening statements started on Tuesday in a San Jose courtroom for 56-year-old Balwani, who faces 10 counts of fraud and two counts of conspiracy related to his role in the failed company Theranos, NBC Bay Area reports.
He faces the very same charges that 38-year-old Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos, faced at her recent trial. She was convicted in January of three fraud counts and one count of conspiracy and she is due to be sentenced in September. Holmes was indicted on the charges in 2018 for scamming numerous investors with false claims about the breakthrough medical technology her company Theranos had supposedly developed.
Balwani was the chief operating officer at Theranos at the time. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
On Tuesday, Balwani’s defense claimed that he had not committed any crimes. They maintain that the investor money was used as it was intended; they also claim that their client invested $5 million of his own money, ABC 7 reports.
Meanwhile, the prosectuion stated, “This is a case about fraud, about lying and deceiving to get money."
Balwani’s trial suffered multiple delays as a result of COVID. While the trial was supposed to begin in February, it was pushed back while the Omicron variant was at a high point, KTVU reports. Then, last week, opening statements were pushed back after Judge Edward Davila announced that a juror may have been exposed to the virus.
Jury selection also proved to be a challenge as many potential jurors had apparently watched Hulu’s new series “The Dropout, which stars Amanda Seyfried as Holmes and Naveen Andrews as Balwani, People reports.
Holmes was just 18 and Balwani was well into his thirties when the pair met in Beijing, China. Ultimately, their relationship turned romantic, and Holmes testified during her trial that he controlled her, coaching her on how to act, look and spend her time. She said he also had control over how she ran Theranos.
“Balwani told me that I didn’t know what I was doing in business and that my convictions were wrong, that he was astonished at my mediocrity and if I followed my instincts, I was going to fail," she testified.
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