The risks of investing in cryptocurrency have been well documented, but a new case out of Canada may be the weirdest example yet. It seems the founder of a crypto exchange died unexpectedly, and he was the only one who had access to most of the $190 million of his clients' funds, reports Gizmodo. They might be out of luck as a result. The strange tale began in December when the exchange QuadrigaCX announced that 30-year-old Canadian Gerald Cotten had died while on a trip to India of complications from Crohn's disease, reports the CBC. Cotten apparently had the only access to the bulk of clients' money, spread out over various cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. His widow, Jennifer Robertson, has his laptop but says nobody has been able to get past its encryption, according to an affidavit in British Columbia Supreme Court.
"They've left us completely in the dark," says a Calgary investor who found that he couldn't withdraw $15,000. "I'm kind of preparing for the worst." In the affidavit, Robertson said that Cotten had "sole responsibility for handling the funds and coins." While some of the money appears to be in accessible "hot wallet" storage—sort of like liquid cash—the vast majority is in inaccessible "cold wallet" storage. The latter is used to keep the money safe from hackers. Adding to the intrigue: Some people think the whole story is a little too fishy. For example, the CEO of rival exchange Kraken says it is investigating "the bizarre and, frankly, unbelievable story of the founder’s death and lost keys," per CCN. Kraken's Jesse Powell also encouraged the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate. (Read more cryptocurrency stories.)