Craig Wright, the self-proclaimed and dubious inventor of Bitcoin, has been ordered by a U.S. court to hand over up to $5 billion in Bitcoin holdings to the estate of David Kleiman. Wright claims that he invented Bitcoin along with Kleiman and that they mined several coins together between 2011 and 2013. Ira Kleiman, David’s brother, sued Wright for his share of the mined cryptocurrency.
A Case of He Said, He Said
David Kleiman, a computer forensics expert, died in 2013. According to Wright, he had formed a technology company with Kleiman. Before his death, Kleiman signed away ownership rights of the venture, Wright claims. Kleiman’s family suspects otherwise and filed a lawsuit against him.
The entire situation is further complicated by the fact that Wright does not have the private keys required to access his bitcoin. According to him, his bitcoin holdings are in a blind trust. He put them there after he witnessed the criminal uses of Bitcoin.
Wright distributed parts of his encryption key to various individuals via a trust and asserts that a bonded courier will deliver the full key to him in June 2020. Bitcoin worth $5 billion might be at stake in the lawsuit. (While Wright has always claimed to be the creator of BTC, no one knows how much BTC he owns.)
As technology website Ars Technica noted, the entire case has an “air of unreality” about it. The judge in this case may agree with that assessment. He wrote a harsh ruling for Wright. “Dr. Wright’s demeanor did not impress me as someone who was telling the truth. When it was favorable to him, Dr. Wright appeared to have an excellent memory and a scrupulous attention to detail. Otherwise, Dr. Wright was belligerent and evasive,” he wrote. “Dr. Wright’s story not only was not supported by other evidence in the record, it defies common sense and real-life experience,” he stated.
The case still leaves several important questions unanswered. Primary among them is whether Wright actually has the Bitcoins he claims to have mined. The other important question left unanswered is Wright’s claim of being Satoshi Nakamoto. Members of the cryptocurrency community have generally been disbelieving, with Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s co-founder, even going to the extent of calling him a fraud at a public conference.
At the start of the ruling, the judge said that the court was not obliged to establish whether Wright was Nakamoto or not. He also added that the court was not obligated to establish the number of Bitcoins owned by Wright.