A COMPUTER scientist who claims to be the mysterious creator of Bitcoin and the rightful owner of a £34billion fortune is facing a fresh court battle.
Craig Wright faces a UK court challenge after a US court ruled in his favour last month – which he said “proves” he is the man behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.
The 51-year-old is facing a civil lawsuit at the High Court filed by the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA), a group set up by Square, a payments company founded by the Twitter billionaire Jack Dorsey.
COPA is challenging claims that Wright, from Brisbane, is Nakamoto by trying to show he does not have ownership of the Bitcoin White Paper.
The white paper laid foundations for the cryptocurrency and was said to have been penned by the anonymous computer whiz Nakamoto.
Nakamoto’s coins – all 1.1million of them, worth £34billion – are still visible on the blockchain, a public record of Bitcoin transactions.
Over the last few years, Wright has been battling to prove he is Nakamoto – and COPA first filed its case against him last April.
And the latest court battle sees his claim challenged – including allegations that he may have “forged or otherwise doctored” the documents which back up that he is Nakamoto.
His Honour Judge Paul Matthews has thrown out an application by Wright to strike and exclude certain evidence when the case comes to trial.
In his written conclusion, HHJ Matthews said: “Since about 2016 the defendant has publicly claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto.
“This claim has been brought in order to test those assertions.”
COPA are seeking for the court to agree that that Wright does not own the Bitcoin White Paper and thus he is not Nakamoto.
He went on: “The claimant is seeking a declaration that the defendant is not the author of the Bitcoin White Paper.
“The claimant seeks to prove a negative by showing (if it can) that the defendant has had various opportunities, and made various attempts, to prove his claim to be the author but on each occasion has failed to do so.”
Wright, who has Aspergers syndrome and reportedly only sleeps four hours a night, says he created Bitcoin on his own – a claim which has drawn scepticism in the wider crypto community.
He first went public with his claims in 2016 – and has fiercely defended his assertions ever since.
COPA – a non profit seeking to remove patents and litigation it sees as stifling crypto’s growth – however are taking on Wright.
In their case, COPA state: ” On several occasions when Wright has sought to prove he is Satoshi by way of documentary evidence, it has been shown that the documents he relies on are not what he claims they are.
“The Claimant will establish at the trial of this matter by way of forensic computer evidence that the above documents […] were, in fact, forged or otherwise doctored unless [the defendant] admits such.”
Wright’s recent court win saw a Florida court rule he did not owe the family of David Kleiman half of his alleged 1.1million Bitcoins.
Kleiman’s relatives insist the pair were close friends and co-created Bitcoin through a partnership.
Instead, the jury did award £70m ($100m) in intellectual property rights to a joint venture named W&K Info Defense Research between Wright and Kleiman – who died in 2013 aged 46.
The award was a fraction of what Kleiman’s lawyers were asking for at trial.
Andres Rivero, Wright’s lawyer, said: “This was a tremendous victory for our side.”
Wright said he felt vindicated and that the jury’s verdict proved he was Nakamoto – a claim he first made in 2016.
“I have never been so relieved in my life,” he said.
He added: “The jury has obviously found that I am because there would have been no award otherwise, and I am.”
The risks of buying with cryptocurrencies
Investing and making a purchase in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin is risky.
Their value is highly volatile and City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority has warned investors should be prepared to lose all their money.
Investing in cryptocurrencies is not a guaranteed way to make money.
You should also think carefully about making purchases with a cryptocurrency.
For example, Bitcoin has had wild price fluctuations in recent months and the price can change on an almost hourly basis.
The price of a Bitcoin was at $40,258 on January 9, according to Coindesk, but fell to $34,214 just three days later.
That’s a 15% drop.
These price swings are risky for a business as you could sell an item for a Bitcoin at one price and the value may drop soon after, leaving you with less money from a sale.
Similarly, the price of Bitcoin has soared by more than 21% since the start of this week so it can be hard for a shopper to get an accurate idea of the price of an item if its value changes on a daily basis.
All Bitcoin transactions are public and the mysterious creator of the currency’s fortune has remained untouched since its creation.
Members of the crypto community have called for Wright to move some of the coins into another account to prove he is the owner.
Wright and his lawyers have insisted he will prove his ownership and donate a part of his Bitcoin fortune to charity.
Bitcoin’s origins have always been shrouded mystery.
In October 2008, during the height of the financial crisis, a person or group of people going by the name Satoshi Nakamoto published a paper laying out a framework for a digital currency that would not be tied to any legal or sovereign authority.
Mining for the currency, which involves computers solving mathematical equations, began a few months later.
The name Nakamoto, roughly translated from Japanese to mean “at the centre of”, has always been regarded as a pseudonym.
In 2016, Wright provided technical “proof” to the BBC, The Economist and GQ, which consisted of a demonstration of the verification process used in the very first Bitcoin transaction.
But The Economist claimed “such demonstrations can be stage-managed” and reported Wright refused to make the proof public and to provide other assurances.
He then posted an apology on his blog stating that he no longer had the “courage” to continue the process of proving his identity.
Wright subsequently appeared in Netflix documentary Banking on Bitcoin and once again claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto in what he said would be his final filmed interview.
The case continues.