Judge Orders Man to Hand Over Billions in Bitcoin

Craig Wright has claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2019 9:15 AM CDT
Updated Aug 28, 2019 9:58 AM CDT
Judge Orders Man to Hand Over Billions in Bitcoin
In this Monday, April 7, 2014, file photo, a man enters the Inside Bitcoins conference and trade show, in New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

A new twist in the mystery of Craig Wright and Satoshi Nakamoto, the alias of the creator of bitcoin. There was much hullabaloo in May 2016, when Wright—whom Wired had months earlier identified as likely being Nakamoto—said he was indeed the man behind the curtain. But just days later the Australian said he didn't have the "courage" to share the iron-clad proof he said he had. On Tuesday, a US district court in Florida ordered Wright to part with half of the bitcoin he possesses, which the Guardian reports is said to be worth billions. Bloomberg gets more specific, reporting that would come to 410,000 bitcoins, which were each valued at $10,162 Tuesday; that's $4.16 billion.

  • Judge Bruce Reinhart said it wasn't the court's job to establish whether Wright is Nakamoto or how much bitcoin he has; it needed to rule on whether David Kleiman's estate had the rights to part of Wright's haul. Reinhart found it did.

  • Kleiman's estate argued that the programmer helped Wright create the cryptocurrency from 2009 to his 2013 death, and that it should get a portion of the bitcoin the two mined together. Reinhart awarded it half, along with half of Wright's intellectual property from that period.
  • Wright said he couldn't comply because he can't access his bitcoins. The story he told the court: Realizing his creation had turned ugly in that it was being used by criminals, he took his bitcoin at that point and put it into an encrypted file whose key was divvied into slices. Using a blind trust, Kleiman gave the slices to people. A bonded courier is due to deliver Wright a key in January, he says, at which point he can decrypt the file.
  • Reinhart's take: "Dr. Wright’s demeanor did not impress me as someone who was telling the truth."
  • It's not totally case closed, reports Coindesk. "There are still procedural issues, including collection, that need to be hammered out. However, the substantive issues have been decided and this points to an end of a potentially lengthy trial," though Wright can appeal.
  • Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Wright had sounded an alarm, saying the market could be flooded with bitcoin due to the ruling. It noted, however, that "Investors seem to be taking the alert in stride, with bitcoin little changed at about $10,150."
(More bitcoin stories.)

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