A law firm representing users of the now-defunct crypto exchange QuadrigaCX wants investigators to exhume the body of its former CEO.
A letter sent by law firm Miller Thomson to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) asks for the authorities to dig up and examine the body of Gerald Cotten, who reportedly died of complications due to Crohn’s disease at the end of December 2018. Cotten was 30 at the time.
“The purpose of this letter is to request, on behalf of the Affected Users, that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the ‘RCMP’), conduct an exhumation and post-mortem autopsy on the body of Gerald Cotten to confirm both its identity and the cause of death given the questionable circumstances surrounding Mr. Cotten’s death and the significant losses of Affected Users,” the letter reads.
Cotten’s death was kept secret for a month after his passing, with the exchange accepting deposits but not allowing at least some customers to withdraw funds throughout that time.
Shortly after Cotten’s death was announced on the QuadrigaCX website by his widow Jennifer Robertson, the exchange went offline, filing for creditor protection and announcing that Cotten was the only individual who knew the private keys to the exchange’s cold wallets, and therefore had been the only person who could access its crypto holdings.
However, an investigation by Quadriga’s court-appointed monitor, Ernst & Young, revealed that the exchange’s crypto wallets were empty, with most of the crypto holdings transferred to other exchanges and wallets.
It was later revealed that Cotten had likely used at least some of the crypto taken from Quadriga to margin trade small-cap alternative cryptocurrencies.
Cotten’s death has been under suspicion since it was announced. According to Robertson’s statement, he had died of complications from Crohn’s disease, which is not generally fatal.
Robertson's attorney, Stewert McKelvey partner Richard Niedermayer, told CoinDesk in a statement that she was "heartbroken to learn of this request."
"Gerry died on December 9, 2018 in India – an independent investigation by the Globe & Mail confirmed this earlier this year, and it should not be in doubt. While Ms. Robertson has assisted the Quadriga Affected Users in the recovery of assets, and has cooperated fully with Ernst & Young’s investigation, it is not clear how the exhumation or an autopsy to confirm the cause of Gerry’s death from complications arising from his Crohn’s disease would assist the asset recovery process further," the statement said.
A death certificate obtained by CoinDesk from the Indian hospital Cotten reportedly died in misspelled his name, and a doctor who examined Cotten later told Vanity Fair that the actual cause of death – as well as the circumstances around it – remain unclear.
Following his death, Cotten was embalmed in a medical school and transported back to Canada, where he was reportedly buried in mid-December.
“Enclosed please find a detailed compilation (the ‘Background Material’, at Schedule ‘A’) of publicly available information on the history of Quadriga, Gerald Cotten and others related to Quadriga which, in our view, further highlight the need for certainty around the question of whether Mr. Cotten is in fact deceased,” Friday’s letter said.
The background material was not shared. An associate with the law firm told CoinDesk that the firm does "not intend to share this attorney work product publicly."
“Representative Counsel respectfully requests that this process be completed by Spring of 2020, given decomposition concerns,” the letter states.
UPDATE (Dec. 13, 2019 20:40 UTC): This article has been updated with statements from Miller Thomson and Jennifer Robertson.
Disclosure Read More
The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.