THE real identity of Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto could finally be revealed, unlocking the key to his £36billion fortune.
A UK court will now decide if Craig Wright, 54, is the mysterious, anonymous crypto-king who disappeared from the internet over a decade ago.
Wright, an Australian computer scientist who lives in London, has been arguing since 2016 that he is the real Nakamoto – a claim largely dismissed by the cryptocurrency world.
Whoever did invent Bitcoin is sitting on an enormous stash of cryptocurrency now worth £36billion ($46b) – which would make them one of the world’s richest people.
Bitcoin was the first decentralised currency, which uses digital coins created or “mined” using complex calculations carried out by computers.
For years now, Wright has unsuccessfully claimed to be the legendary Nakamoto and has dragged various naysayers through the courts in an attempt to be legally recognised as Bitcoin’s creator.
In 2021, an organisation called Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA) filed a lawsuit against Wright in the UK, petitioning the court to rule that Wright does now own Bitcoin’s white paper.
The trial starts today in London.
It is expected to last about a month and is backed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.
A spokesperson for Wright said the trial was “really a war” over who sets the rules for the Bitcoin blockchain – a digital record that tracks ownership of a cryptocurrency.
He told The Guardian: “Think of it as a modern-day tech battle, akin to that between Blu-ray and HD DVD or, for even older readers, Betamax versus VHS.”
A spokesperson for COPA said they are seeking a “negative declaration” that Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto.
COPA argued the trial will “conclusively show that Dr Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto and will not be able to continue to threaten developers.”
The total value of the Bitcoin market is worth about £657billion ($830b).
Wright offered to settle the case last month, a move that caused observers to suggest he was not confident he could win.
The offer was rejected by COPA who posted on X/Twitter: “Hard pass on that ‘settlement,'” as they argued it “would allow him to sue people all over again.”
Coinbase chief legal officer, Paul Grewal, on behalf of COPA said: “If Wright were truly Satoshi, it would be easy for him to prove it beyond any doubt. But he cannot.”
He told Coindesk: “Wright’s trove of forged documents is at the heart of COPA’s litigation that begins next week. In fact, two experts hired by Wright himself have already acknowledged that many of Wright’s documents are forged.”
The true identity of Nakamoto has become crypto’s most enduring mystery.
Timeline of Nakamoto’s disappearance
THE man, the myth and the legend of Satoshi Nakamoto is sitting on a pile of crypo-currency worth £36billion.
Nakamoto is believed to be a pseudonym and the true identity of the inventor remains shrouded in mystery.
2007 – Nakamoto worked on the first ever version of the software in 2007 and all communication to and from him was conducted via email.
2008 – The mystery man first introduced the concept of cryptocurrency and the blockchain system of verification to the world in a 2008 paper.
2010 – His involvement with Bitcoin ended in 2010 and his last correspondence was that he had “moved onto other things”.
And ever since, a series of characters have claimed or been accused of being Nakamoto.
2014 – Newsweek thought they had found their Satoshi Nakamoto – a computer engineer living in Temple City in Los Angeles County.
And while the Japanese-American man, named Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, firmly denied he was the shadowy force behind the infamous cryptocurrency – the plot continued to thicken.
It soon emerged that computer scientist Hal Finney, who was the recipient of the first Bitcoin transaction, lived a “few blocks” from the seemingly-oblivious Nakamoto.
However, people later believed that Finney was either a ghostwriter for the Bitcoin creator or simply used his neighbour’s name as a moniker.
The other best known Nakamoto-suspect is Australian computer scientist and businessman Craig Wright.
But unlike the other leading contenders, Wright began actually claiming he is Nakamoto in 2016.
2016 – Wright said he provided technical “proof” to the BBC, The Economist and GQ.
This consisted of a demonstration of the verification process used in the very first Bitcoin transaction.
He then posted an apology on his blog stating that he no longer had the “courage” to continue the process of proving his identity.
Wright subsequently appeared in Netflix documentary Banking on Bitcoin and once again claimed to be Nakamoto in what he said would be his final filmed interview.
However, he has continued to try and legally battle to ‘prove’ he is the Bitcoin founder.
And whether he is or not might finally be decided at a trial starting this week.
There was a false unmasking by Newsweek in 2014, which followed with Wright later stepping forward in 2016 alleging to be its true creator.
In 2016, he provided what he called technical “proof” to the BBC, The Economist and GQ, which consisted of a demonstration of the verification process used in the very first Bitcoin transaction.
But The Economist claimed “such demonstrations can be stage-managed” and reported Wright refused to make the proof public and to provide other assurances.
Wright has also failed to provide the private keys – a secure code consisting of a hexadecimal string of numbers and letters – that would finally unlock the 1.1million Bitcoins mined by Nakamoto.
He told a Norwegian court in 2022 that he had destroyed the computer hard drive that held the keys.
The same year, Wright managed to win a legal victory over blogger Peter McCormack who was found to have caused harm to Wright’s reputation by labelling him as a fraud.
He was awarded damages of £1 by the judge who also ruled that Wright had given “deliberately false evidence” to support his libel claim.
In 2021, the family of Wright’s former business partner David Kleiman – who died in 2013 – sued him.
They argued that Kleiman worked on and mined bitcoin together with Wright, entitling him to half the fortune.
After an intense legal battle, a jury in Florida ended up awarding nothing to Kleiman’s estate.
Five risks of crypto investments
BELOW we round up five risks of investing in cryptocurrencies.
Consumer protection: Some investments advertising high returns based on cryptoassets may not be subject to regulation beyond anti-money laundering requirements.
Price volatility: Significant price volatility in cryptoassets, combined with the inherent difficulties of valuing cryptoassets reliably, places consumers at a high risk of losses.
Product complexity: The complexity of some products and services relating to cryptoassets can make it hard for consumers to understand the risks. There is no guarantee that cryptoassets can be converted back into cash. Converting a cryptoasset back to cash depends on demand and supply existing in the market.
Charges and fees: Consumers should consider the impact of fees and charges on their investment which may be more than those for regulated investment products.
Marketing materials: Firms may overstate the returns of products or understate the risks involved