The entrepreneur’s claims are being hashed out in a lawsuit over his late business partner’s estate
The identity of Bitcoin’s inventor is crypto’s foundational mystery. Who is behind the inscrutable mask of the legend known as “Satoshi Nakamoto”?
No one has more riding on the answer than Craig Wright.
Wright has long been a notorious figure within the crypto world. Often simply referred to by his initials, CSW, he has for years vehemently insisted that he is the true Satoshi Nakamoto, inventor of Bitcoin. But he hasn’t convinced many people. His bombastic claims go against the grain in a community that emphasizes anonymity over ego, and his evidence is often contradictory. Rather than being embraced as the crypto antihero he claims to be, he’s widely seen as an impersonator — a villain, even.
Lately, Wright has been in the news again. Thanks to his involvement in a high profile lawsuit, an incredulous community has been subjected to another round of his claims to being the father of the famous digital asset (and all the benefits that come with that claim).
On June 28, Wright appeared in a West Palm Beach court to testify in a lawsuit brought by the estate of his late business partner, David Kleiman. Kleiman’s estate claims Wright holds assets that should have legally been transferred, at least in part, to the Kleiman estate, based on agreements made prior to David’s death. The alleged possible value of these assets is staggering: up to $1.1 billion worth of Bitcoin. Wright denies that he owes the estate, and claims that he does not have access to the assets, anyway.
Wright claims that he created Bitcoin in 2009 and started working with Kleiman shortly thereafter. By August 2010, according to Wright’s narrative, they had mined a large number of coins together. He says Kleiman then founded a UK-based company, called W&K, shortly before passing away in April 2013. Wright claims part-ownership of W&K.
Ira Kleiman, David Kleiman’s heir, is alleging that the late Kleiman actually owned all of W&K, including a large portion of the approximately $1.1 billion in Bitcoin that the men mined together. He says assets were transferred after Kleiman’s death from W&K to Wright’s personal accounts without explanation. In addition to the crypto assets, Kleiman’s estate is demanding the transfer of Bitcoin IP that it alleges is also in Wright’s custody.
On June 28, Wright was supposed to present, in court, the public addresses of the Bitcoin funds listed in the lawsuit, and demonstrate his ownership prior to 2013. Wright failed to provide these addresses. During questioning from his lawyer, he stated that “public addresses” do not exist on the Bitcoin network.
Wright further explained that he has access to seven or eight of the 15 keys required to unlock the store of approximately $1.1 billion in Bitcoin, and that based on the time release system he and Kleiman devised, he should receive access to another key sometime in 2020.
Katie Ananina, CMO at UpNode Media, who live-tweeted Wright’s hearing, reported that the much-maligned defendant was maudlin on the stand, “playing a victim and a good guy that ‘respects the law.”’
“[Wright] cried a couple times, he mentioned having a master [sic] degree in law and getting [sic] PhD in it, he talked about religion and his soul,” Ananina wrote.
When lawyers asked Wright why, if he is the real Satoshi, he chose to disassociate himself from the famous pseudonym, Ananina reports that he responded, “I was ashamed of my invention. They used it for child porn and hard drugs. I didn’t want to be a part of it, so I left. I even stopped being a pastor.”
Wright has clearly had a change of heart. In recent months, he has tried to copyright both the Bitcoin code and original Bitcoin white paper. He has also sued those trying to discredit his claim.
If Wright does end up controlling the alleged $1.1 billion worth of Bitcoin, it could have a serious impact on the Bitcoin ecosystem. If it is proven that Wright is not, in fact, Satoshi Nakamoto, he would almost certainly face perjury charges, not to mention the wrath of an unforgiving populace.
In his testimony, Wright has given wildly diverging accounts of his story and has been accused of falsifying evidence. The court will present its verdict in August, which could result in fines and/or incarceration for Wright.