Sunny Balwani: who is Elizabeth Holmes’ ex-boyfriend and why is he guilty of fraud - Theranos trial explained

Sunny Balwani and Elizabeth Holmes are due to be sentenced in the autumn

The latest chapter in the Theranos scandal has ended after the Silicon Valley blood testing company’s chief operating officer Ramesh ‘Sunny’ Balwani was convicted of fraud.

Together with founder Elizabeth Holmes, Balwani scammed investors out of almost $1 billion by claiming the Theranos blood test could detect conditions including cancer and diabetes when that was not the case.

The now-defunct company was worth $9 billion (£7.5 billion) at its peak.

He now faces decades in prison, and is due to be sentenced alongside Holmes - who was herself convicted of fraud for her part in the scam earlier in 2022 - this autumn.

The scandal has attracted significant attention given the pair defrauded high-profile businessmen, including Rupert Murdoch, and also because it’s been the subject of a Disney+ crime drama starring Amanda Seyfried.

Sunny Balwani was found guilty of defrauding Theranos’ investors and patients (image: Getty Images)

But who exactly is Sunny Balwani - and what was his role in the Theranos scam?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Who is Sunny Balwani?

Ramesh ‘Sunny’ Balwani, 57, was Theranos’ chief operating officer - meaning he ran the day-to-day operations of the company.

Born in Pakistan in 1965, he worked his way up through IT software companies in the 1990s before landing the role of president at a Silicon Valley startup called CommerceBid during the dot-com boom.

It was bought for $225 million by another firm - Commerce One - with Balwani netting $40 million when he sold his stake.

He got out just before the dot-com bubble collapsed.

Afterwards, he enrolled in a business masters course at the University of California at Berkeley, which is where he met the then-18 year old Elizabeth Holmes.

Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty of fraud in a separate trial for the Theranos scandal earlier in 2022 (image: AFP/Getty Images)

In 2002 he divorced his Japanese wife, but it is unclear if this was as a result of a romantic relationship with Holmes.

The pair are only thought to have officially become a couple around the time of Theranos’ founding in 2003.

Holmes has since alleged that Balwani abused her while they were together - claims Balwani has denied.

Not much else is known about Balwani.

What was Sunny Balwani’s role in the Theranos scandal?

Sunny Balwani was essentially Elizabeth Holmes’ right-hand man at Theranos following his appointment to the firm’s board in 2010.

Until 2016, he served in multiple roles including president, chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

As well as running everyday operations while Elizabeth Holmes fronted the business, Balwani oversaw the Theranos laboratory for a time.

Sunny Balwani was found to have played a bigger role in the Theranos scandal than Elizabeth Holmes (image: Getty Images)

He also invested $15 million into the firm to get it off the ground, with this stake at one point being worth an estimated $500 million.

Theranos’ downfall began when whistleblowers revealed its lab’s in-house tests had major inaccuracies - something that was likely to have been known by Balwani.

Despite filing a ‘not guilty’ plea, Balwani was found guilty of all 12 fraud charges US prosecutors brought against him.

Alongside defrauding investors - something Elizabeth Holmes was also convicted of - the businessman was also found guilty of defrauding patients.

His trial heard testimony from prosecution witness which detailed the real-world impact of the inaccuracies of Theranos’ tests, including from people who had been told they were going through miscarriages or cancer.

Elizabeth Holmes was the glamorous and confident face of Theranos’ blood tests (image: Getty Images)

Balwani’s conviction on more counts of fraud than Elizabeth Holmes means the US legal system has ultimately found him to be more culpable for the Theranos scandal than his ex-girlfriend.

His lawyers attempted to portray him as a loyal footsoldier who was working under the direction of Holmes.

But prosecutors won over the 13-person jury by calling witnesses who said he had shared false financial forecasts for the firm, and also sharing a message he had sent to Holmes, which read: “I am responsible for everything at Theranos. All have been my decisions too.”

How long could Sunny Balwani be sentenced for?

With his 13-week trial concluding Balwani was guilty of 12 counts of fraud, he is expected to face around 20 years in prison.

He may also have to pay out millions of dollars to his victims.

Holmes could face a similar length of time in jail.

She is currently out on bail, but is due to be sentenced on 26 September.

Balwani is likely to be sentenced on 15 November.