Further drama ensues in the Bitcoin world, as the self-proclaimed Satoshi Nakamoto, Craig Wright, faces a $4 billion lawsuit against him. The accusation is that he essentially co-opted funds from a computer scientist’s family, and owes $4 billion as a result.
The suit alleges that when David Kleiman, a computer scientist and likely developer of Bitcoin, passed away, Wright offered to sell some of his 1.1 million BTC on behalf of his family.
Disposal of Assets
After Kleiman died in 2013, Wright reached out to his estate with an offer to help dispose of the significant amount of Bitcoin he was in possession of, but never returned the funds. In the complaint against Wright, the suit alleges:
“Wright forged a series of contracts that purported to transfer Dave’s assets to Craig and/or companies controlled by him. Craig backdated these contracts and forged Dave’s signature on them.”
Wright has attempted to have the suit dismissed, but the court determined these were sufficient claims to require further investigation in a court of law.
The Court’s Goal
Subpoenas have been put out for Jeff Garzik, another Bitcoin engineer, to appear in court and provide documentation related to Wright and Kleiman. In addition, he will provide any evidence that could support or debunk the theory that Wright is Satoshi.
The court also seeks to obtain early mining data for Bitcoin, with the goal of hopefully tracking down Kleiman’s Bitcoin and confirming what his family alleges to have happened in dealings with Wright. It is also theorized that this information could be helpful into several Silk Road and Mt. Gox investigations.
This sort of a massive lawsuit, although record-breaking, is also representative of the sort of disputes that will likely occur in this space in the future. Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general (especially when you consider anonymous coins like Zcash) are attractive to steal because there is no way to reverse transactions.
Who is Satoshi?
The greater point at the heart of all this is that there is a “centralized” power in the form of people claiming an authority over Bitcoin by proclaiming themselves to be Satoshi. Long-rumored to be a group of people more than one single person, the Satoshi claim allows someone to benefit from a mysterious personal brand and attain a god-like status in the industry. There have been many theories floated about Nakamoto’s identity, and last November, Garzik mused:
“My personal theory is that it’s [Satoshi Nakamoto] Floridian Dave Kleiman. It matches his coding style, this gentleman was self taught. And the Bitcoin coder was someone who was very, very smart, but not a classically trained software engineer.”
If this is the case and Satoshi is dead, there is no way to ever completely verify whether he was the creator or not. At the same time, this would be a great way to stop the search for Satoshi and keep the mythology of the cryptocurrency intact. Bitcoin is successful not just because it was the first cryptocurrency to gain traction, but also because it has a great story behind it and there is no “creator” to debate with or muddle the messaging of the protocol.