Craig Wright’s UK Contempt of Court Case Over Alleged Embargo Breach Abandoned

Judges at the High Court in London said they didn’t have the resources to explore the issue fully.

AccessTimeIconApr 5, 2023 at 11:19 a.m. UTC
Updated Apr 5, 2023 at 3:30 p.m. UTC
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U.K. contempt of court proceedings against Craig Wright, who claims to be Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto, have been dropped after judges said they were ill-equipped to proceed in a case where facts were disputed.

It was no longer in the public interest to continue to act against Wright even if there was, at first sight, evidence that Wright revealed details of a judgment before it was supposed to be published, English High Court Judge Mark Warby said during a Wednesday hearing.

“We have concluded that it is no longer in the public interest to pursue these proceedings,” said Warby, speaking also on behalf of Judge Matthew Nicklin, adding that the court was “ill-equipped to proceed in contempt proceedings where the underlying facts are disputed, or a raft of legal issues raised.”

“We are satisfied that there is prima facie evidence of a breach by Dr. Wright of the embargo on the draft judgment,” Warby said.

Sending judgments in advance is common practice in English courts, allowing counsel for both parties to correct errors and prepare a response. However, revealing contents before official publication can be treated as contempt of court – a deemed prejudice of legal procedures that can carry a sentence of up to two years in jail.

Messages posted on a Slack channel by Wright in August last year could be read as “intending to disclose” the contents of a judgment regarding journalist Peter McCormack that had been sent to Wright’s lawyers just hours previously, Judge Martin Chamberlain said last year in a ruling that referred the matter for further investigation.

According to Chamberlain, Wright said the Slack messages were intended to “encourage debate,” and that he “did not realize” that a separate email he forwarded to five unauthorized people contained a summary of the judgment.

In a later affidavit filed in March, Wright said that key evidence concerning the alleged breach had been submitted by his lawyers at Ontier without his permission, and constituted legally privileged material. Faced with a 17,000-word skeleton argument advanced by Wright’s new attorneys, buttressed by 1,600 pages of legal authorities, Warby concluded the cost of continuing outweighed the benefits.

Wright sued McCormack for libel in 2019 after McCormack said the Australian computer scientist was not the true author of the 2008 pseudonymously written white paper that set out the idea of bitcoin as a cryptocurrency.

While McCormack abandoned his defense on the grounds of cost, Wright was awarded only one British pound in damages when Chamberlain found Wright had “advanced a deliberately false case until shortly before trial.” McCormack was also ordered to pay around 900,000 pounds ($1.1 million) in costs.

In a separate ruling in October, Judge Helen Engebrigtsen of the Oslo District Court in Norway said Markus Granath, tweeting as Hodlonaut, had “ample factual basis to claim that Wright had lied and cheated in his attempt to prove that he is Satoshi Nakamoto.”

Ontier and new counsel for Wright did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Edited by Sandali Handagama.


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Jack Schickler

Jack Schickler was a CoinDesk reporter focused on crypto regulations, based in Brussels, Belgium. He doesn’t own any crypto.

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