Bitcoin’s self-proclaimed creator wins right to keep $50B fortune

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A computer scientist who claims to be the inventor of bitcoin has won a legal battle to keep a hoard of tens of billions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency, despite not proving that he actually owns it.

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A Florida jury found that Craig Wright did not owe half of the 1.1 million BTC to the family of David Kleiman, Wright’s one-time business partner.

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The jurors took a full week to deliberate, repeatedly asking lawyers for both sides as well as the judges questions about how cryptocurrencies work as well as the business relationship between the two men.

At the heart of the test are 1.1 million bitcoins, which at current prices are worth around $50 billion. These were one of the first units of cryptocurrency to be created through mining and could have been owned by an individual or entity associated with the digital currency since its inception.

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The origins of bitcoin have always been a mystery, which is why this test has attracted so much attention from outsiders. In October 2008, during the height of the financial crisis, a man named “Satoshi Nakamoto” published a paper outlining a framework for a digital currency that would not be tied to any legal or sovereign authority. Mining for the currency began a few months later.

The name Nakamoto, which roughly translates from Japanese, means “in the center”, was never thought to be the real name of the creator of bitcoin. Some in the cryptocurrency community don’t even believe that Nakamoto was a single person.

Wright has claimed since 2016 that he is Nakamoto, a claim that has faced heavy suspicion from a large section of the crypto community. Because of its structure, all bitcoin transactions are public and the 1.1 million bitcoins in question have remained untouched since Wright’s major disclosure. Members of the bitcoin community have regularly asked Wright to transfer only a fraction of the coins to a separate account to prove that he is in fact as rich as he claims.

If he controlled fortunes, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Wright would be among the top 30 wealthiest people in the world.

David Kleiman died in April 2013. Led by his brother Ira Kleiman, his family has claimed that David Kleiman and Wright were close friends and co-created bitcoin through a partnership. Kleiman’s estate was suing for half the bitcoin as well as intellectual property rights.

Wright’s lawyers have repeatedly stated that David Kleiman and Wright were friends and worked together, but that their partnership had nothing to do with the creation or initial operation of bitcoin.

Wright has said that he plans to donate a much larger bitcoin fortune if he wins the trial, although he has yet to prove that he actually controls it.

As part of the ruling, Wright was ordered to pay $100m to Kleiman’s family for intellectual property infringement.

Additional reporting from agencies


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