For most of the last decade, internet snoops, journalists and bitcoin enthusiasts have been trying to unmask Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious creator of bitcoin who holds almost 1 million of the digital coins — currently worth $10 billion.
Now a bombshell lawsuit against the man who publicly claims to be Nakamoto could finally answer that question.
Craig Wright outed himself in 2016 as the creator of the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency, but his claims were met with widespread skepticism.
Now legal experts believe that the lawsuit, being brought by the family of a close collaborator of Wright, will once and for all confirm the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto.
Wright, an Australian cryptographer has largely disappeared from public view since saying he was going to provide no more proof of his claim.
Now he's facing a lawsuit being brought by the estate of Dave Kleiman, a computer scientist and cybersecurity expert, who many had identified as a possible answer to the question of who created bitcoin.
The lawsuit claims Wright stole 1,100,111 bitcoins that rightfully belonged to Kleinman and would currently have a market value of $10,236,532,855. As well as the missing bitcoin, Kleinman’s estate is alleging that Wright “unlawfully, willfully, and maliciously misappropriated trade secrets belonging to Dave’s estate relating to blockchain-based technologies.”
Wright issued a single-worded response to the lawsuit when asked about it on Twitter late Monday: "Greed."
According to one expert, the lawsuit would necessarily demand the unmasking of the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto:
The Kleinman estate is being represented by Boies Schiller Flexner, the firm that represented Al Gore in his Supreme Court case challenging the results of the 2000 presidential election.
However, a blog post by bitcoin security specialists WizSec has poured cold water on the claims made by both Wright and the Kleinman estate, suggesting that neither party owned the bitcoin being claimed.
“The very existence of those bitcoins in the first place is just another fantasy,” the post says. “The lawsuit is a nonsensical fight over unrelated funds that never belonged to either party.”
Who was Dave Kleinman?
A former helicopter technician in the U.S. Army, Kleinman was paralyzed and wheelchair-bound following a serious motorcycle accident. He met Wright in an online cryptography forum in 2003 and according to the lawsuit, the pair worked together on the white paper that outlined how bitcoin and the blockchain would work, published under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008.
The pair also formed a Florida-based company, W&K Info Defense Research LLC, in 2011 to focus on cybersecurity.
However, the lawsuit also says it is "unclear whether Craig, Dave, and/or both created bitcoin.”
It continues: “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.”
In an email sent to Louis Kleinman, Dave’s 94-year-old father, 10 months after his son’s death, Wright claims: “Your son Dave and I are two of the three key people behind bitcoin.”
Kleinman died just months before bitcoin really hit the mainstream, in April 2013, after a long battle with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). At the time of Kleinman’s death, no one in his family was aware of the extent of his involvement in creating bitcoin or that he had accumulated “an incredible sum of bitcoins.”
The lawsuit claims that Wright took advantage of this fact to seize bitcoin belonging to Kleinman by forging a series of contracts that purported to transfer the assets to Wright or companies controlled by him.
To do this, Wright backdated contracts and used a computer-generated font called Otto to forge Dave Kleiman's signature, according to the lawsuit.
The circumstances of his death are also couched in mystery. “Dave was found dead in his home. The scene of Kleiman’s death was gruesome. His body was decomposing, there were wheelchair tracks of blood and fecal matter, open bottles of alcohol, and a loaded handgun next to him. A bullet hole in his mattress was found,” the lawsuit says.
Wright and Kleinman operated a bitcoin mining operation which saw them collect over one million bitcoin, which was held in trusts based in the Seychelles, the U.K. and Singapore.
Wright is currently living in London where he is chief scientist of blockchain startup nChain. In his role, Wright has filed hundreds of patents related to bitcoin and blockchain technology.
After many people questioned his claims of being Nakamoto in 2016, Wright said he would be providing no further public proof of his claim.
The identity of the person or persons who created bitcoin has been a topic of interest for the media and the bitcoin community for many years, with multiple names being floated, including Gavin Andresen, Hal Finney, Nick Szabo, and most infamously Dorian Nakamoto.
Cover image: In this photo illustration, a visual representation of the digital Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is displayed alongside an U.S. Dollar banknote on February 6, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)