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Ruth Kise 15 Sep 2023 ◦ 12 min read

The Exciting and Ridiculous Story of Craig Wright

The Exciting and Ridiculous Story of Craig Wright

Most likely, we will never know who Satoshi Nakamoto is. The number of versions at this point is huge, so we will not even try to list some of them in this material (you can read our previous article on the subject of Satoshi, though!). At one point, a curious character named Craig Wright took the stage, claiming that he is the legendary Satoshi. It would seem plausible — why not? Since he created Bitcoin, he could just go to his wallet, which contains $50 billion, ending useless disputes. But it wasn't there. Craig Wright put on a real performance, bringing thousands of people who believed in his words on his side. The topic is too complex to put in a nutshell, so in this article we concentrated on the last and most high-profile cases in Wright's history.

Craig Wright — Satoshi Nakamoto?

Craig Wright is a 45-year-old entrepreneur from Australia. Until 2015, he was known only for offering to open a Bitcoin bank in 2014. His companies were investing in Bitcoin wallets, the Bitcoin exchange and other cryptocurrency-related businesses. Australian police are known to have had claims against Wright — apparently related to paying taxes. Wright wrote several works on the topic of cryptocurrencies, and in the summer of 2008, a few months before the publication of a scientific article by a certain Satoshi Nakamoto about Bitcoins, he announced similar material on his blog.

Wright was first linked to Bitcoin in December 2015. Then Wired and Gizmodo published large investigations based on the correspondence of the Australian anonymously shared with journalists. It followed from the investigation that it was Wright who could hide under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto; at least much circumstantial evidence pointed to this. Wright himself did not comment on the investigation.

Wright presented evidence that he is the creator of Bitcoin.

“Satoshi is dead.
But this is only the beginning.”

So Craig Wright wrote on his blog on May 2, accompanied by the post with detailed instructions on how to verify the authenticity of his statements about the creation of cryptocurrency. The journalists of the BBC, GQ and The Economist got acquainted with this evidence before the publication: it relates to data on the first ever Bitcoins that were created by Wright's supercomputers. Theoretically, only the real creator of Bitcoins could have such information about them.

Journalists concluded that the evidence presented by Wright is quite convincing. John Matonis, one of the former leaders of the Bitcoin Foundation (engaged in the development of the cryptocurrency system), is also sure of this: he has been in correspondence with Nakamoto since 2010; having first met with Wright in 2015, he suggested that he was the creator of Bitcoins. Matonis, along with reporters, reviewed Wright's documents and agreed that he is Satoshi Nakamoto.

Nevertheless, journalists still doubt this. The most skeptical of Craig Wright's story was The Economist. The publication provides several arguments at once that should not be overlooked. The first one is the very way that Wright proves his authorship. Without elaborating, Wright only showed reporters what he wanted and refused to engage in encrypted correspondence with The Economist, although this would help confirm that he had the same encryption keys as Nakamoto.

Among other suspicious points: fake reports of some scientific achievements in Wright's LinkedIn profile (he explains this as a joke), Wright's hidden desire to make his achievements recognized, as well as the question of whether he is competent enough to be the author of a Bitcoin network.

It is known that the self-proclaimed Satoshi Nakamoto specialized in French cooking in the early 90s. A little later, he worked in a catering company (table setting, cooking and delivery of food).

His LinkedIn page claimed that Wright is a doctor of science in computer technology. He received his degree, as stated, from Charles Stewart University in Sydney (CSU). However, this information was not confirmed. Forbes made a request to the university, and CSU representatives said that Wright did not receive anything from them. And while false information about achievements from the past is probably not something extraordinary on the Internet, it is interesting that on the same page Wright claimed that in addition to IT, he studied finance. That is, two industries that intersect in cryptocurrency. Some users suggest that these were preparations for further statements and lawsuits. Also, if you analyze Wright's resume, you can find many declared scientific degrees at various universities. He wrote in his biography:”I am a bit of an academic junkie and go from degree to degree as a sort of hobby, so this all adds to the level of being overqualified for most things,” he says in a separate biography. By the way, his first degree, which he received in 2003, was in the field of theology.

As noted by The Economist, Wright did not write a single article entirely devoted to Bitcoin (in total he has more than a hundred publications on an extremely wide topic), although he mentioned cryptocurrency and talked about it from the position of a verifying person. Despite the fact that people who knew Nakamoto by correspondence are sure that Wright is the creator of cryptocurrency, The Economist notes: there is no complete confidence in this.

According to him, together with Dave Kleiman, he created the first cryptocurrency and participated in initial mining. Wright also submitted a list of addresses containing 1.1 million BTC, claiming that he did not own access to them, since the coins were transferred to the Tulip Trust. He never said where his list of these addresses came from, as evidence of Satoshi Nakamoto's possession of bitcoins was not provided. It's interesting that a message was subsequently sent from some of the addresses on the list, noting that Craig Wright is a fraudster and does not actually own the relevant keys.

In other words, since 2015, Wright began to publicly declare that he is the same Satoshi Nakamoto. This led to a number of scandalous court cases, some of which were resolved only recently.

Some Notable Cases Involving Wright

Let's take a closer look at some of the disputes that were triggered by Craig Wright's claims of being the Bitcoin's creator.

Ira Kleiman v. Wright Case

In February 2018, Ira Kleiman, brother of deceased writer and computer security specialist Dave Kleiman, filed a $10 billion lawsuit against Wright in the District Court of the Southern District of Florida. In late 2008, Wright helped Kleiman work on a new electronic payment system, according to the lawsuit. On January 12, 2009 — the day of Bitcoin's first transaction — they already began sending Bitcoins to each other. It is noteworthy that the lawsuit admits that it is not clear "whether Dave and/or Craig created Bitcoin," but it is allegedly obvious that both are related to the coin from the very beginning and accumulated it in large numbers between 2009 and 2013. Also in 2015, Wired and Gizmodo wrote about the possible involvement of Dave Kleiman, along with Wright, in the Bitcoin invention.

In 2011, crypto entrepreneurs founded the mining and research company W&K Info Defense Research LLC in Florida. Dave Kleiman owned 50% to 100% of W&K, according to the lawsuit. In total, the company mortgaged 1.1 million PTS, which the claimant estimated at $10 billion. Ira Kleiman claims that Wright deceived his brother by faking Kleiman's signature in a series of contracts dated 2011, 2012 and 2013, appropriated all Bitcoins mined by the company and brought them to their own accounts and to the accounts of their trust funds. In addition, Wright deprived the Kleiman family of the rights to the intellectual property of the company and Bitcoins of his relative.

In 2013, Dave Kleiman was found dead at his home in Palm Beach. Now his brother demands the return of bitcoins or their fiat value, pay compensation for intellectual property created by the company, and pay legal costs.

This week, a jury in the US state of Florida recognized Australian businessman Craig Wright the right to 1.1 million bitcoins with a total value of about $56 billion. Half of this amount was demanded by Ira Kleiman, who claimed that his late brother, Dave Kleiman, was a partner of the defendant.

The court found Dr Wright did not owe Dave Kleiman's family half of Bitcoin's 1.1 m. The jury only awarded $100 million in intellectual property rights to a joint venture between the two men.

Vel Freedman, a lawyer for the claimant, said his team was pleased with the verdict: "We just won $100 million!." However, they asked for much more: up to $36 billion of Bitcoin, $126 billion in compensation for intellectual property and $17 billion in penalties.

The jury did not plan to identify Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonym believed to be hiding the creator. Craig Wright's defense claimed that he alone created Bitcoin, and Kleiman's side claimed that it was a partnership between Wright and Dave Kleiman. However, Wright's claims that he is Satoshi were never confirmed or denied in court. At his trial, Wright admitted he was friends with Kleiman, who helped him edit Bitcoin's "white paper." But they were not business partners at the same time.

Wright v. Cobra Case

Wright's trial against the co-owner of the bitcoin.org site, known under the pseudonym Cobra, is also interesting, related to the request to remove technical documentation for Bitcoin from the site.

In January 2021, Wright accused the sites of Bitcoin.org and Bitcoincore.org of copyright infringement and demanded the removal of white paper. Cobra refused to take that step. He later reported death threats from a certain person "associated with the Bitcoin SV community."

In February, the Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance (COPA) demanded that Wright clarify on what basis he claims the copyright of white paper.

In April, the alliance filed a lawsuit against the self-proclaimed creator of Bitcoin. Representatives of COPA demanded to admit that the defendant was not related to the writing of the document.

As a result of the disputes, Cobra hinted that the businessman is not the owner of early Bitcoin addresses, offering the latter to pay legal costs in BTC to the address associated with the block number 9.

In June 2021, Wright won a trial in that case. Cobra has been banned from infringing copyright in the UK "both by allowing white paper to be downloaded from the Bitcoin.org website and in any other way."

In 2019, Wright copyrighted white paper and Bitcoin source code. (It is worth noting that filing a copyright application is not identical to filing a patent. So, another enthusiast in 2019 filed similar requests as Wright to the Copyright Protection Bureau.) Later, the US Copyright Bureau clarified that they did not recognize him as the creator of digital gold.

Wright v. Hodlonaut Case

In 2019, Wright opposed a follower of Bitcoin under the pseudonym Hodlonaut, who on social networks questioned the fact that Wright was involved in the creation of Bitcoin. Wright accused the other side of discrediting him and that this kind of remarks had damaged him and his reputation. The court took into account investigations by a number of media outlets into Craig Wright's claims. All of them confirmed the version that Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto. The court also took into account the fact that Wright is unable to provide cryptographic evidence to prove that he is the creator of the first cryptocurrency.

At the same time, the events resulted in a juicy scandal, when one of Wright's supporters conducted his own investigation and, having discovered a person who wrote on behalf of Hodlonaut, posted his personal data, including his home address, to the public. Soon after, Hodlonaut deactivated its Twitter account.

The Bitcoin community then immediately reacted to such a development of events, not only expressing outrage at the fact that the user's personal data was disclosed, but also starting to change their usernames to "Hodlonaut" as a sign of support, and avatars to an image of a cat in a spacesuit.

After some time, Hodlonaut, however, returned to Twitter, saying that he had filed a counterclaim against Craig Wright.

It is noteworthy that in the same year, in 2019, Wright filed a similar lawsuit against Bitcoin.com founder Roger Ver, saying that he slandered him, calling him a liar and a fraudster. That lawsuit was also dismissed.

As a result, the court ruled that Hodlonaut had the right to declare that Wright is not Nakamoto, since the Australian programmer made a controversial provocative statement that could meet with skeptical assessment. The court ordered Wright to pay the other side about $350,000. Claims against Hodlonaut have been dropped.

Wright v. McCormack Case

In this case, Wright's opponent was a cryptocurrency blogger Peter McCormack, who specializes in Bitcoin. He posted a recording on social media and YouTube that Wright is not Satoshi, accusing the latter of lying and fraud. Wright subpoenaed McCormack, arguing that the statements had damaged his reputation. The entrepreneur added that due to controversial publications, he was not invited to a number of events and conferences in which he could earn money. However, the court found the information on the evidence in the lawsuit deliberately false. So, in August, Wright was awarded only £1. Probably, the judge, having studied the arguments of the parties, found that the damage suffered by the Australian programmer did not exceed this amount.

Among other things, as a result of the protracted process, Wright was ordered to reimburse McCormack for legal costs. In addition, he was accused of "contempt of court." Wright published on the social network the results of the court decision, although he did not have rights to this at that time. As a result, the entrepreneur himself could be brought to trial. However, McCormack also failed to get by. The court ordered him to pay $1.1 million in legal costs in favor of Wright in another, earlier decision of October 2021, according to which McCormack could not prove that he was telling the truth when he called Wright a fraudster. Although the total requested amount by Wright was significantly higher. Thus, both cases Craig Wright did not win in full.

Bottom Line

Why Wright claims that he is Satoshi is unknown and unclear. He himself says that he does not seek fame or money, but simply wants to establish clarity and dispel the rumors generated by publications in the press. However, at the end of 2015, when no one thought Wright was the creator of Bitcoin, he entered into an agreement with writer Andrew O'Hagan, the author of an unauthorized biography of Julian Assange. Perhaps Wright decided to reveal himself before journalists even reached him. Nakamoto is the surname of a 17th-century Japanese philosopher. Wright, he said, took a pseudonym after Tominaga Nakamoto, who was a free-trade advocate. Of where Satoshi's name came from in the alias, Wright refused to say, "Some things should stay private."

It is difficult to talk about his real motives, but the entrepreneur willingly shares the results of the trials and prefers to go into hearings with all his might. In the past, Craig Wright has never been able to provide sufficient and peremptory evidence that he is Satoshi Nakamoto. The latest court rulings do not speak well about the Australian entrepreneur and his claimed copyright for the historically first cryptocurrency. But another trial awaits us in 2024.

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