Man who claims to be Bitcoin inventor wins dispute over $50bn in crypto

Computer scientist Craig Wright said he would prove he was owner of 1.1 million Bitcoin

Craig Wright, a computer scientist who claims to be the inventor of Bitcoin, prevailed in a civil trial verdict against the family of a deceased business partner that claimed it was owed half of a cryptocurrency fortune worth tens of billions. AFP

Craig Wright, a computer scientist who claims to be the inventor of Bitcoin, prevailed in a civil trial verdict Monday against the family of a deceased business partner that claimed it was owed half of a cryptocurrency fortune worth tens of billions of dollars.

A Florida jury found that Mr Wright did not owe half of 1.1 million Bitcoin to the family of David Kleiman. The jury did award $100 million in intellectual property rights to a joint venture between the two men, a fraction of what Kleiman's lawyers were asking for at trial.

“This was a tremendous victory for our side," said Andres Rivero, the lead lawyer representing Mr Wright.

Computer scientist Craig Wright has said he plans to donate much of his Bitcoin fortune to charity. AP

David Kleiman died in April 2013. Led by his brother Ira Kleiman, his family has claimed David that he and Mr Wright were close friends and co-created Bitcoin through a partnership.

At the centre of the trial were 1.1 million Bitcoin, worth approximately $50 billion based on Monday’s prices. These were among the first Bitcoin to be created through mining and could only be owned by a person or entity involved with the digital currency from its beginning — such as Bitcoin's anonymous creator, Satoshi Nakamoto.

Now the cryptocurrency community will be looking to see if Mr Wright follows through on his promise to prove he is the owner of the Bitcoin. Doing so would lend credence to Mr Wright's claim, first made in 2016, that he is Nakamoto.

Craig Wright's claim that he is Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto has been met with scepticism. Getty Images.

Jurors took a full week to deliberate, repeatedly asking questions of lawyers on both sides as well as the judge on how cryptocurrencies work as well as the business relationship between the two men. At one point the jurors signalled to the judge that they were deadlocked.

Bitcoin’s origins have always been a bit of a mystery, which is why this trial has drawn so much attention from outsiders. 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,” was never considered to be the real name of Bitcoin’s creator.

Mr Wright's claim that he is Nakamoto has been met with scepticism from a sizeable portion of the cryptocurrency community. Due to its structure, all transactions of Bitcoin are public and the 1.1 million Bitcoin in question have remained untouched since their creation.

Members of the Bitcoin community have regularly called for Mr Wright to move just a fraction of the coins into a separate account to prove ownership and show that he truly is as wealthy as he claims.

During the trial, both Mr Wright and other cryptocurrency experts testified under oath that he owns the Bitcoin in question.

Mr Wright’s lawyers have said repeatedly that David Kleiman and client were friends and collaborated on work together, but their partnership had nothing to do with Bitcoin’s creation or early operation.

Mr Wright has said he plans to donate much of the Bitcoin fortune to charity if he were to win at trial. In an interview, Mr Rivero reconfirmed Mr Wright’s plans to donate much of his Bitcoin fortune.

Updated: December 7th 2021, 7:08 PM