An Australian IT security consultant who claims to have invented the virtual currency bitcoin has been ordered by a US judge to hand over more than half of his bitcoin holdings, estimated to be in the region of $5bn, to the estate of his alleged former business partner.
Craig Wright was sued by the estate of David Kleiman which claimed that the two had worked as partners on the formation of the cryptocurrency from 2009 until Kleiman's death in 2013.
A Florida court ruled that Kleiman's family was entitled to half of Wright's bitcoin holdings and half of his intellectual property. While this is estimated to be around $5 bn, it is not clear exactly how many bitcoins Wright has and what their value might be given that he claims he is uable to access all of them.
Wright told the court that he encrypted many of the bitcoins he mined when the currency became associated with drug dealers and money laundering. The encryption keys were then divided into mutiple slices, many of which were held by Kleiman. Consequently, claimed Wright, he will be unable to decrypt the coins until a bonded courier is able to deliver the keys in January 2020.
An even more incredulous claim made by Wright is that he is actually Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of bitcoin. Judge Bruce Rheinhart described his story as "inconceivable" and criticised his credibility as a witness.
“During his testimony, Dr. Wright’s demeanor did not impress me as someone who was telling the truth. When it was favorable to him, Dr. Wright appeared to have an excellent memory and a scrupulous attention to detail. Otherwise, Dr. Wright was belligerent and evasive,” said the judge.