A Surprise Death, and Investors Think Something Is Fishy

Some believe cryptocurrency entrepreneur Gerald Cotten is still alive, want body exhumed
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2019 9:09 AM CST
Updated Dec 16, 2019 11:28 AM CST
Investors Want CEO's Body Exhumed After Mystery Death
In this Dec. 8, 2017, file photo, coins are displayed next to a Bitcoin ATM in Hong Kong.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

It was a story hard to fathom, even in the brave new world of cryptocurrency. In January, Canada's biggest crypto exchange announced that 30-year-old CEO Gerald "Gerry" Cotten had died unexpectedly. The twist: QuadrigaCX also said that Cotten was the only one who knew the passwords to encrypted accounts, meaning that at least $145 million from roughly 75,000 investors was gone for good, lost in the ether. Investors, though, aren't buying it. And now, in an extraordinary development, they are demanding that Cotten's body be exhumed to prove that he's actually dead. Coverage:

  • The request: Investors sent this letter Friday requesting that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police exhume Cotten's body "to confirm both its identity and the cause of death," reports CoinDesk. It cites the "questionable circumstances" surrounding Cotten's death and the huge amount of money involved.
  • The death: The company says Cotten died of complications from Crohn's disease while traveling in India in December 2018, reports CNN. His body was reportedly returned to Canada and buried that same month. His widow, Jennifer Robertson, says that she is "heartbroken" at the exhumation request and that there should be no doubt about her husband's death.

  • The skepticism: Vanity Fair did a fascinating deep dive into Cotten's story in November. The RCMP is investigating his death, as is the FBI, and at least two other law enforcement agencies. "The most effective and thorough investigation to date, however, has been conducted by anonymous accounts posting on Twitter, Reddit, Pastebin, and Telegram," writes Nathaniel Rich. "Their findings, though baroquely technical, could be distilled to a two-word conclusion: Gerry's alive." The story quotes the gastroenterologist who treated Cotten in India as saying "we are not sure about the diagnosis" of complications from Crohn's.
  • Not as it seems: The accounting firm Ernst & Young is poring over the company's finances, and they have discovered alarming irregularities, reports the Washington Post. For example, Cotten was moving investors' funds to his personal accounts and making risky trades on other crypto exchanges. "The losses began adding up." E&Y also located some of QuadrigaCX's "cold wallets," where investors' money should have been, and found that they were empty. His widow, Robertson, says she was unaware of her husband's improprieties and will return the majority of her assets (including a plane, a yacht, and multiple properties) to the accounting company to be liquidated.
  • Early start: The Globe and Mail of Canada reports that Cotten got involved in "shady ventures" online as a teenager. As a 15-year-old, he started "a bizarre cross between a Ponzi scheme and online gambling," but had to shut it down when investors began demanding their money back. The upshot is that he learned at an early age "how to deceive investors and cover his tracks," according to the story.
(More cryptocurrency stories.)

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