Dr. Craig Wright, cryptocurrency pioneer and currently chief scientist of blockchain technology research and development firm nChain, is being sued for $10.2b by a relative of one of Bitcoin’s earliest advocates.
On Monday, word broke that Ira Kleiman, brother of deceased Bitcoin pioneer Dave Kleiman, had filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida accusing Wright of acquiring via nefarious means some “hundreds of thousands” of Dave’s Bitcoins, along with “valuable intellectual property rights of various blockchain technologies.”
The complaint notes that Wright and Dave Kleiman shared a “longtime interest in cyber security, digital forensics, and the future of money,” and their early collaboration allowed them to accumulate “a vast wealth of bitcoins from 2009 through 2013,” the year Kleiman died following a long battle with MSRA.
The complaint says Kleiman’s family was ignorant of his Bitcoin holdings, because “for reasons not yet completely clear, [Kleiman and Wright] chose to keep their involvement in Bitcoin hidden from most of their family and friends.”
The complaint alleges that, following Dave’s death, Wright “forged a series of contracts that purported to transfer Dave’s assets to Craig and/or companies controlled by him.” The complaint further alleges that Craig “backdated these contracts and forged Dave’s signature on them.”
Ira Kleiman claimed Wright reached out to him after Dave’s death, confirming the pair’s Bitcoin activities but explaining that Dave had signed away his rights to the assets in exchange for a stake in an Australian company worth “millions.” The complaint calls this explanation “a lie” because this company “went bankrupt” following a dispute with the Australian tax office.
The complaint alleges that Wright had amassed a stash of around 1.1m Bitcoins, of which “at least 300,000” belonged to Dave. However, the plaintiff believes he’s entitled to all 1.1m Bitcoins mined by both Wright and Dave, which were “wrongfully converted” by Wright after Dave’s death. Ira is seeking the return of these Bitcoins – or their equivalent value in fiat currency – as well as numerous technology patents, plus interest and court costs.
It’s worth noting that Ira himself has no connection to the world of cryptocurrency and the legitimacy of the documentation he’s presented to support his claims is a matter of some debate within the crypto community.
Moreover, it’s long been rumored that Dave kept his Bitcoin stash on a hard drive with the highest level of encryption available at the time. This hard drive is currently in Ira’s possession, which would further call into question the capacity for anyone to access its contents.
Putting aside the dubious merits of Ira’s allegations, what doesn’t appear to be in dispute is Wright’s rightful place as a key figure at the genesis and early development of Bitcoin. Sadly, the heights that the cryptocurrency markets have since attained is also why we can likely expect more of these lawsuits to emerge in future.
After news of the lawsuit broke, Wright was queried on Twitter as to what the lawsuit was all about, to which he replied with a single word: “Greed”.