Correction: Craig Wright has not received the private keys to his bitcoin stash. The encrypted file that has been unlocked contains a list of bitcoin holdings, not the private keys necessary to access those holdings. The debate in court has been over this list, which Wright has now produced to the court.
Lawyers for Craig Wright, the Australian computer scientist who claims to be the inventor of Bitcoin, say Wright has received the digital keys to a fortune that would grant him access to approximately $8 billion worth of Bitcoin. If true, the fortune would allow him to make a payment allegedly owed to the estate of a former business partner, which has sued him for roughly half of that.
The notice of compliance, filed in the Southern District of Florida late Tuesday, states that “Dr. Wright notifies the Court that a third party has provided the necessary information and key slice to unlock the encrypted file, and Wright has produced a list of his bitcoin holdings, as ordered by the Magistrate Judge, to plaintiffs today.”
The story thus far
For over a year now Wright has been embroiled in a lawsuit with Ira Kleiman, the brother of the late Dave Kleiman, whom Wright claims to have developed the early Bitcoin protocol with under the nom-de-hack Satoshi Nakamoto. Upon learning of Wright’s supposed identity, Kleiman sued Wright on the grounds that his estate should be entitled to roughly half of the one million bitcoins Wright claims to have mined in the early days of Bitcoin, which today would be worth billions of dollars.
But Wright has claimed that he is unable to access the bitcoin trove, because it had been moved to a blind trust, and that a “bonded courier” would deliver the keys to the funds by the end of this month. Yesterday, the Florida judge, who has already deemed Wright “not credible” for providing documents in deposition that appeared to have been forged, granted Wright until February 3 to await the courier, whom the judge described as a figure “from the shadows.”
The court has also recommended Wright pay the full 500,000 Bitcoin (around $4 billion) allegedly owed to Kleiman, and Wright originally agreed to pay the sum in a settlement. However, Wright abandoned the settlement on the grounds that he was unable to finance it, and the trial began anew.
So far Wright has yet to demonstrate proof of the courier’s existence. Nevertheless, in a surprising filing late today, today Wright’s counsel asserted that Wright had received the “key slice” that would allow him to access the funds and pay Kleiman. If true, the keys would help stake Wright's claim to being the mysterious Nakamoto.
The crypto market goes ga-ga
Crypto markets surged today, with Bitcoin SV—Wright’s fork of Bitcoin—rocketing at one point to more than 125%, its all-time high. Crypto Twitter struggled to make sense of the news.
Indeed, some observers suspect that today’s filing was a feint, and that Wright took advantage of the rally to generate the funds needed to feign ownership of Satoshi’s substantial holdings.
Nic Carter, a partner at crypto fund Castle Island Ventures, thinks this is unlikely. “Just buying lots of bitcoin doesn’t mean he would have been able to feign being Satoshi,” said Carter, who said that a forensic analysis of Wright’s Bitcoin holdings would show definitively whether they reflect his recent gains or are indeed Satoshi’s original coins. “It’s known specifically which coins Satoshi mined (with some estimation).”
He added: “One million bitcoins is approximately $8 billion, whereas all of BSV is worth less than that—so he wouldn’t have been able to make enough to posture as having the full amount.”
Decrypt’s emails seeking comment, to Wright’s lawyers, as well as Kleiman’s, went unanswered.