Alongside his Thanksgiving turkey, Ira Kleiman may have served himself a side dish of perjury in the Kleiman v Wright civil lawsuit against Bitcoin creator Dr. Craig Wright.
On Wednesday, Ira Kleiman appeared in a Florida federal court to offer testimony supporting his civil case against Dr. Wright, whom Ira accuses of improperly purloining hundreds of thousands of BTC tokens (worth tens of billions of dollars) that Ira claims his late brother Dave Kleiman mined in partnership with Wright.
Dr. Wright has acknowledged that Dave helped him edit the Bitcoin white paper ahead of its 2008 release, but denies that he and Dave ever had a formal partnership to mine BTC. Dr. Wright has also accused Ira of irresponsibly handling Dave’s tech gear following the latter’s death, including Ira’s wiping of digital devices on which the private keys to significant caches of BTC could conceivably have been stored.
There’s much to be critical about in Ira’s actions following Dave’s April 2013 death, including giving some of Dave’s hard drives to Patrick Paige, Dave’s partner in a forensic computer business, based on Paige’s claims that they contained data related to the business. Ira doesn’t appear to have inspected the drives to ascertain their contents before handing them to Paige. Ira later attempted to sue Paige to recover these drives but failed to secure their return.
Equally baffling is Ira’s decision to effectively overwrite several of Dave’s hard drives seemingly without care for whatever existing information might be permanently compromised. In his testimony to the court this week, Ira admitted tossing one drive in the trash because “it never powered on.”
Within months of Dave’s death, Ira had already formatted two of Dave’s drives with new Windows software because “we were looking for a computer for my wife to use.” Asked by Andrew Brenner, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, whether he had “any memory of ever deleting any of the stuff that was on there from Dave’s from the drives,” Ira replied “I don’t believe so, no.”
However, during extended cross-examination Thursday by Wright’s attorney Andrés Rivero, Ira admitted that he’d erased or overwritten nearly all of Dave’s drives despite negligible knowledge of (or apparent interest in) the files contained therein. Rivero also got Ira to admit that he’d lied when he claimed to have secured Dave’s drives in a safety deposit box, instead leaving the drives piled in a backpack in Ira’s residence.
Ira told the court that he had no reason to think Dave’s drives might contain anything of value until the possibility was suggested to him in a February 2014 email from Wright. Ira further claimed that, at the time, he believed Wright’s suggestion that Dave’s files could contain valuable information, but Ira no longer believes there was anything of value related to Bitcoin on the drives (a convenient stance that absolves Ira of any responsibility for the potential destruction of valuable data).
Leggo my logo
Ira testified Wednesday in support of claims he made in his 2018 amended complaint against Wright, including a conversation Ira claims to have had with Dave at a Thanksgiving dinner at their father’s home in 2009. Once the plates had been cleared away and with all the other guests out of earshot, Ira claims Dave revealed that he was involved in a “digital money” project that would ultimately be “bigger” than Facebook.
Ira further claimed that Dave then took a business card from his wallet and “drew a ‘B’ with a line or two through it, and commented on how ‘we’ were working on a logo” for this unspecified digital money project. Dave allegedly said he was working with “a relatively wealthy foreign man” that Ira took as a reference to a formal partnership.
But Ira’s timeline for Dave’s alleged description of the Bitcoin logo doesn’t match the official record. At the time of that November 26, 2009, dinner, the Bitcoin logo was simply the letters ‘BC’ on a gold-coin backdrop. It wasn’t until February 24, 2010—three months after Thanksgiving—that the logo was changed to include two vertical strokes protruding from both the top and bottom of a capital ‘B’.
This change may have been in response to a February 5, 2010 suggestion by a forum member known as NewLibertyStandard, who proposed the Bitcoin community “adopt the Thai baht currency symbol, ฿, as the official bitcoin currency symbol.” Asked Thursday (under oath) if Ira had any evidence that his brother was behind the NewLibertyStandard identity, Ira admitted he had nothing.
When Rivero pointed out that the logo Ira was referencing “was not the logo for Bitcoin” at the time of the Thanksgiving dinner, Ira could only state that Dave had previously sought Ira’s help “to create, like, logos for him … so at the time I thought maybe he was asking me … ‘we’re working on a logo check this out.’”
The investment path not taken
Ira can’t say for sure what Dave’s intentions were in showing him this mysterious ‘B,’ as Ira doesn’t appear to have asked Dave any follow-up questions whatsoever. And if Dave ever mentioned the word ‘Bitcoin,’ Ira doesn’t remember it. Not at this dinner, nor at any other point in their lives.
Dave also doesn’t appear to have made any full court press to convince his brother of the financial opportunity at hand. While Wright was pushing relatives and friends to get involved in Bitcoin mining while the block reward was high and the difficulty was low, Dave evidently didn’t advise Ira to expend some minor CPU labors in the possibility of a major payday down the road.
Dave also apparently didn’t suggest that Ira simply buy some Bitcoin tokens while they were still relatively worthless. This, despite Ira admitting on the stand that he and his brother “had lots of email exchanges about different stocks,” including Dave’s recommendations that Ira buy shares in a variety of tech firms, including Apple, Facebook and Twitter.
Ira confirmed Dave’s lack of effort to get his family on the Bitcoin bandwagon in a December 2017 email in which Ira wondered “why the heck didn’t [Dave] tell us to buy some [Bitcoin] when it was selling for pennies?”
Stuff this turkey
That Thanksgiving dinner would seemingly have offered the perfect opportunity for Dave to pitch Ira on the investment opportunity of a lifetime. That is, if the brothers had actually discussed Bitcoin as Ira claims, and the whole incident isn’t simply something Ira conjured out of thin air in order to justify his pursuit of a quick payday.
Ira has testified to his knowledge of Dave’s increasingly precarious financial situation in his final years. Ira was equally aware of Dave’s prolonged physical decline, the sad and occasionally gruesome details of which were related in court this week. Yet despite living only a few miles apart, that Thanksgiving dinner was the last time the brothers ever saw each other face-to-face.
Ira’s disinterest in Dave’s welfare seems to have been matched only by his disinterest in (a) preserving the integrity of Dave’s digital devices and (b) investing any time/effort to understand the first thing about Bitcoin. All of which suggests that the fabled Bitcoin conversation over Thanksgiving dinner may simply be the product of Ira’s imagination—one of many conversations Ira may now wish he’d had with Dave before his death. Those conversations can never happen now, but the chance to score some ill-gotten gains remains. So pass the gravy…
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