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Self-proclaimed Satoshi Craig Wright is being sued for stealing his partner’s bitcoin

Self-proclaimed Satoshi Craig Wright is being sued for stealing his partner’s bitcoin


Dave Kleiman’s estate wants ten billion dollars in bitcoin, allegedly taken by fraud

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A stylized illustration of a Bitcoin in purple and black shadows.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Craig Wright, who once claimed to be long-sought Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto, has been sued for stealing $5 billion in bitcoin from a former business partner.

Filed in the Florida District court earlier this month, the lawsuit alleges that Wright participated in a joint bitcoin-mining venture with the now-deceased IT consultant Dave Kleiman, ultimately mining between 550,000 and 1,100,000 bitcoin. According to the plaintiffs, Wright forged and back-dated a number of documents after Kleiman’s death in order to make it appear that the co-founder had signed away his shares.

Kleiman’s estate, represented by his brother Ira, seeks the return of those bitcoin, which would now be worth over $10 billion. According to the lawsuit, the uncertain state of those bitcoin was related to Wright’s well-publicized tax issues, which caused his home to be raided by Australian police.

The lawsuit puts forward a number of pieces of evidence of Kleiman’s ownership of the venture, including corporate documents that list him as the registered agent. In another email exchange quoted in the complaint, Wright appears to admit to holding 300,000 bitcoin on Kleiman’s behalf.

“[Dave] mentioned that you had 1 million Bitcoins in the trust and since you said he has 300,000 as his part. I was figuring the other 700,000 is yours,” Ira Kleiman wrote shortly after his brother’s death in 2013. “Is that correct?”

“Around that,” Wright replied. “Minus what was needed for the company’s use.” Copies of the email are included as an exhibit in the case.

Wright first rose to prominence in December of 2015, after a number of publications were contacted with evidence that the Australian entrepreneur was actually mythical Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto. Wright eventually offered a demonstration to prove his identity as Nakamoto through a cryptographic signature, but the signature was faulty and ultimately unconvincing. Wright later announced his intention to withdraw from public life.

Notably the complaint makes no claims as to Wright or Kleiman’s role in the creation of Bitcoin or any connection to the Satoshi Nakamoto identity. “It is unclear whether Craig, Dave, and / or both created Bitcoin,” the complaint reads. “For reasons not yet completely clear, they chose to keep their involvement in Bitcoin hidden from most of their family and friends. It is undeniable, however, that Craig and Dave were involved in Bitcoin from its inception and that they both accumulated a vast wealth of bitcoins from 2009 through 2013.”

A summons for Craig Wright was issued by the court on February 15th, and no progress is listed on the docket since then. It is unclear whether Wright plans to appear to stand trial.

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