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The Mystery of Bitcoin’s Inventor Persists After British Court Ruling

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
May 21, 2024

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Craig Steven Wright, the chief science officer of cryptocurrency company nChain, is not the man who invented Bitcoin, a British judge ruled, The New York Times reported.

Wright, an Australian computer scientist, claimed that he was the mysterious creator of the original cryptocurrency, using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. In 2008, a person using the pseudonym published a white paper explaining the basics of Bitcoin, an idea that eventually became the foundation of a multitrillion-dollar industry. After that, he seemed to vanish, controlling an estimated 1.1 million bitcoins worth $75 billion.

The mystery of Satoshi’s identity has long captivated crypto experts, with many candidates being  proposed as possible Satoshis, only for them to deny any role in Bitcoin’s creation.

Wright went to extraordinary lengths to prove that he is Satoshi, presenting himself as Bitcoin’s inventor in interviews and social media posts, and testifying in various lawsuits that wrote the original 2008 white paper. After having his claims challenged in 2019, Wright sued for defamation in England. He then sued software developers working to improve Bitcoin’s code, accusing them of violating his intellectual property rights.

In 2021, Wright’s lawyers asked a coalition of prominent crypto companies called the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA) to remove the Bitcoin white paper from their websites. COPA responded by suing Wright in the High Court of Justice in London, seeking a ruling that he did not invent Bitcoin.

Wright’s legal team filed handwritten notes in the High Court as evidence that he invented Bitcoin—the “identity claim,” as the judge described it. Before the trial began in February, a forensic expert hired by COPA submitted to the court an analysis finding that the vast majority of the documents had been doctored.

At the trial’s conclusion in March, the judge overseeing the proceedings, Justice James Mellor, issued a ruling from the bench. “Dr. Wright is not the person who adopted or operated under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto,” he said.

The week after the ruling, corporate filings in England showed that Wright was transferring assets worth as much as 20 million pounds to an offshore entity, the Times reported. COPA argued that he might be shielding these assets from seizure by the court, and Mellor ordered his assets frozen. COPA has “a very powerful claim to be awarded a very substantial sum,” the judge said.

This week, Mellor elaborated on his conclusions in a 231-page ruling, finding that Wright had forged many documents. “He is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is,” Mellor wrote. Wright has already dropped his defamation claim, as well as one suit he filed against Bitcoin developers. But he still persists; he plans to appeal the COPA ruling, he posted in a message on X.

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