Forget the debate about whether bitcoin is a store of value or a currency. What everyone can agree upon is that it is a store of drama. And where there is drama in bitcoin over the last couple of years, Australian computer guru Craig Wright is often in the thick of it. Filed on Valentine’s Day and released yesterday, Mr. Wright is being sued for upwards of 5 billion dollars by the estate of his former business partner, now deceased David Kleiman. At issue are hundreds of thousands of bitcoin, business relationships, integrity, and the still-going suspicion Mr. Wright might be Satoshi Nakamoto.
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Craig Wright Is Sued for Billions
$5,118,266,427.50 USD is a big number, and it’s the amount plaintiff Ira Kleiman claims is owed the estate of David Kleiman, his brother, by notorious cryptocurrency enthusiast Craig Wright. According to certain statements Mr. Kleiman, the deceased, partnered with Mr. Wright in various forms, and the two were apparently around at the inception of bitcoin and the chance to get in on the cheap to the tune of roughly one million tokens.
That sum would be divided, the plaintiff asserts, with Mr. Kleiman receiving about 300,000 bitcoin.
At some time after the agreement, as Ira Kleiman alleges in his 38 page lawsuit against Mr. Wright, and Mr. Kleiman’s death in 2013, attempts to fudge the deceased man’s portion in Mr. Wright’s favor occured. Mr. Wright, as of this writing, has not responded officially.
The filing is riddled with juicy morsels such as “It is unclear whether Craig, Dave, and/or both created Bitcoin. For reasons not yet completely clear, they chose to keep their involvement in Bitcoin hidden from most of their family and friends. It is undeniable, however, that Craig and Dave were involved in Bitcoin from its inception and that they both accumulated a vast wealth of bitcoins from 2009 through 2013,” a point of contention for the last few years at least.
Is He or Isn’t He
Craig Wright, of course, is perhaps best known for either claiming to be Bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, as way to hedge against press accounts; for claiming the title as an elaborate hoax; claiming to be Satoshi as a way to shield others; a tortured genius who became exasperated with skeptics, or an insufferable publicity hound and scam artist. Readers pick.
What is clear are the odd lengths to which Mr. Wright went about his claim/hoax/whatever, going so far as to fly no less a personage than bitcoin luminary Gavin Andresen to London in order to make the case, or non-case. Mr. Andresen, for his part, left convinced Mr. Wright was Satoshi, though he kept an eye toward skepticism. It was all very confusing. Those efforts, however, might now contribute to the charges against Mr. Wright.
It’s also par for the course in civil lawsuits of this sort to engorge one’s opponent as a maniacal super villain, capable of the worst trickery. Again, at this point, we haven’t Mr. Wright’s side of things.
Nevertheless, it is put forward that Mr. Wright conspired against the ignorance of Mr. Kleiman’s family after his death in 2013. Because Mr. Kleiman’s heirs were unaware of their family member’s bitcoin efforts and potential bounty, “Craig perpetrated a scheme against Dave’s estate to seize Dave’s bitcoins and his rights to certain intellectual property associated with the Bitcoin technology. As part of this plan, Craig 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,” the filing states.
Law Firm Is No Joke
Mr. Kleiman reportedly signed away his bitcoin, Mr. Wright is said to have explained, due to another lucrative business offer in Australia. That venture went belly up, with Mr. Wright accused of tax avoidance, and the lawsuit demands this is why Mr. Wright’s home was subsequently raided with Mr. Wright escaping to London.
From there, it appears Mr. Wright attempted contact with the deceased man’s family, making sure his computer equipment was not comprised. The lawsuit details emails of the sorted mess, and attempts to forward the narrative Mr. Wright did everything in his power to exclude the family from a bounty they’re sure he still has tucked away. Elaborate forgeries are examined, along with prospects of wallets containing as much as 650k in bitcoin.
Still, passages such as “In March 2008, just a few months before Satoshi’s paper on the Bitcoin protocol was published, Craig wrote Dave an email stating: ‘I need your help editing a paper I am going to release later this year. I have been working on a new form of electronic money. Bit cash, Bitcoin . . . [y]ou are always there for me Dave. I want you to be part of it all,’” jump out at readers. But, again it is important to emphasize, such types of evidence can be manufactured or just simply coincidental rather than implying what readers’ wish.
Popular media accounts in Gizmodo and Wired, investigating Mr. Wright’s correspondence, along with interviews he’s done, are cited as evidence to both his character and claims of bitcoin wealth – none of which bodes well for Mr. Wright in this instance. There even appears to be correspondence with the deceased man’s brother, confirming an arrangement to split bitcoin in the hundreds of thousands.
Mr. Kleiman’s estate and its claims might be laughed off as frivolous or reaching, but they’ve hired Boies, Schiller & Flexner, a mostly New York-based law firm. Boies is noteworthy for representing Vice President Al Gore in the Supreme Court Bush v. Gore case which decided a presidency, along with representing the government in its antitrust case against Microsoft. Boies routinely ranks as a top law firm in class actions, antitrust, appeals, product liability, white collar, securities litigation, and in profits per partner and per lawyer.
Readers especially interested in where the Satoshi aspect of all this leads are encouraged to deep dive Kim Nilsson’s Wizsec blog, Kleiman v Craig Wright: The bitcoins that never were. Whether readers are more or less convinced about Mr Wright’s claims or non-claims, one constant remains: bitcoin’s store of drama will continue on for some time.
What do you make of the lawsuit? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Pixabay. Kai Sedgwick contributed sourcing.
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Author: C. Edward Kelso