The self-proclaimed inventor of bitcoin has been ordered to pay up to $5bn over a dispute relating to the inception of the cryptocurrency.
Australian IT consultant Craig Wright was told by a US district court in Florida to hand over half of the bitcoin he mined to the family of David Kleiman.
Mr Kleiman’s estate claimed that the pair were business partners before he passed away in 2013.
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Between bitcoin’s inception in 2009 and the time of his death, it is estimated up to 1 million bitcoin were mined by Wright.
In recent weeks, the price of bitcoin has been hovering around $10,000, meaning Kleiman’s family could be entitled to up to $5bn worth of cryptocurrency.
Judge Bruce Reinhart said at the hearing that he was not convinced by Mr Wright’s claim that he did not have access to the bitcoin.
“During his testimony, Dr Wright’s demeanour did not impress me as someone who was telling the truth,” Judge Reinhart said. “When it was favourable to him, Dr Reinhart appeared to have an excellent memory and a scrupulous attention to detail. Otherwise, Dr Wright was belligerent and evasive.”
In 2016, Mr Wright said he was the pseudonymous creator of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto. Many cryptocurrency experts questioned the legitimacy of his claim.
Asked to provide evidence that he invented bitcoin, Mr Wright backed down and said he did “not have the courage”.
He wrote in his blog at the time: “I believed that I could do this. I believed that I could put the years of anonymity and hiding behind me. But, as… I prepared to publish the proof of access to the earliest keys, I broke.”
However, he continued to maintain that he is Nakamoto, and told the court the private access key to the billions of dollars worth of bitcoin is held by a bonded character who will deliver it in January 2020.
Judge Reinhart did not accept Mr Wright’s claim that he could not access the bitcoin, describing the courier situation as “inconceivable”.