LONDON (Bywire News) - He’s the 15th richest person in the world, but nobody knows – for certain – who he is. Now that could be about to change. All may – or may not – be revealed in a major lawsuit over $64bn worth of the cryptocurrency.
In one corner is Australian programmer Craig Wright, 51, who has been claiming off and on that he is the sole creator of Bitcoin since 2016.
In the other, the family of deceased David Kleiman who he created Bitcoin with Wright and worked together since the cryptocurrency’s inception.
Both insist they have evidence which backs up their claim. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal Kleiman family lawyer, Vel Freedman told the Wall Street Journal that ‘the evidence will show there was a partnership to create and mine over one million bitcoin.' According to the family, the pair worked together and assumed the identity of Nakamoto to create the white paper and develop bitcoin.
They say that Wright recruited their relative in 2008 to write the explanatory letter and launch the company. They also say the two incorporated a Florida company in 2011 called W&K Infor Defense Research. The company was, they say, a partnership between the two men.
Wright has reportedly claimed sole ownership of the company. There is, his lawyer Andrés Rivero claims ‘nothing to indicate or record that they were in a partnership.’
This is not the first time Wright has made the claim. Back in 2016, to widespread scepticism, he claimed to be Satoshi before quickly withdrawing the claim.
‘I believed that I could put the years of anonymity and hiding behind me,’ he wrote in a brief apology. “I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot.” Since then, though, he has renewed his claim. Earlier in the year, he launched a lawsuit demanding 16 developers of the cryptocurrency allow him to retrieve the 111,000 Bitcoin held in two digital addresses. He claims he lost the encrypted digital keys when his home computer network was hacked in February 2020.
The developers, not unreasonably, claim that if they were made to hand over the contents of a wallet, it would put everyone’s earnings at risk. It would also effectively de-value the whole eco-system built upon the notion of your keys, your crypto.
The stakes couldn’t be much higher. After the recent rally in Bitcoin’s stock price Nakamoto, whoever he is, currently ranks as the 15th richest man in the world. With some predicting Bitcoin to surge beyond the $100,000 mark by the end of the year, he could find himself propelled into the top ten. Several Bitcoin wallets believed to belong to Nakamoto which have remained untouched, have risen by 10 million percent since they were last used.
The prize, then, is lucrative, but the wider community remains sceptical of both men’s claims. Wright has claimed to have evidence before but is yet to produce it. Other critics have questioned whether either men had the skills to create the decentralised payment system, Bitcoin.
For now, they remain just two of many candidates in the ongoing search for the real Nakamoto – one which has, at various times, focused on just about every big player in the crypto scene. It will, then, be fascinating to see if what happens should a court rule, in their opinion, who the true identity of Satoshi really is.
Here are just a few of the most common suspects:
- Hal Finney: The Californian developer was the first recipient of a bitcoin transaction and possessed the expertise to create Bitcoin. He also retired at about the same time as Satoshi disappeared from the limelight. Interestingly a man name Satoshi Nakamoto is said to have lived just a few blocks away from where he lived. Finney sadly passed away in 2014 after suffering from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Logically, Satoshi being dead would be a compelling reason for him to not spend his/her Bitcoin.
- Ian Grigg: The Financial Cryptographer and creator of Ricardian is a popular choice due to his association with Wright and his 2005 paper called Triple Entry Accounting which described the concept of blockchain technology years before the emergence of Bitcoin.
- Dorian Nakamoto: In 2014, journalist Leah McGrath outed Japanese American engineer Dorian Nakamoto as being ‘the face behind Bitcoin’. Her assumptions were based on his birth name being Satoshi Nakamoto – which suggests he might not be the best at choosing pseudonyms – and the fact that he probably had the technical expertise to do it. However, he has always denied the claim. Quotes taken in McGrath’s article were also taken out of context.
- Adam Black: The CEO of Blockstream has been described as a very likely candidate because he described the technology as early as 1998. He also vanished from the public eye at about the same time that Nakamoto emerged before returning almost as soon as the mysterious Bitcoin creator had left the scene. His writing style has also been compared closely with Nakamoto’s. Both use English slang and double spacing – case proven surely. The only fly in the ointment? Back has also repeatedly denied the claim citing the evidence and purely circumstantial.
Add to that a host of Nakamoto pretenders and you have a pretty crowded field. What we have now, though, is two of the most prominent candidates promising to go head-to-head in the courts. Both declare to have the evidence to back up their claims. The courts will show if either party can put their money where their mouth is. The search for Nakamoto could – just could – be near its end.
(Writing by Tom Cropper and Michael O'Sullivan, editing by Michael O'Sullivan)