Craig Wright, the nChain chief scientist who previously claimed to be the pseudonymous bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, is being sued for a whopping $10 billion.
The lawsuit is being brought by Ira Kleiman on behalf of the estate of his brother, Dave, who has been linked to the earliest days of bitcoin. Kleiman, a forensic computer investigator and author, passed away in 2013 following a battle with MRSA.
Kleiman's role in the development of bitcoin came to light amid the controversy from late 2015, when Wright – an Australian businessman and academic – was identified by Gizmodo and Wired as the possible identity behind Nakamoto, who departed the project in 2010.
The bitcoin community responded mostly with skepticism regarding the claims, with some alleging that the proof offered by Wright was bogus. Wright later said that he would offer no additional proof to back the claim, and in the years since he has worked as the chief scientist for startup nChain and aligned with Bitcoin Cash, the breakaway cryptocurrency that launched last summer.
At the heart of the new lawsuit, according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Feb. 14, is an alleged hoard of more than 1.1 million bitcoins, which Ira Kleiman's lawyers say is worth in excess of $10 billion. He is being represented by Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, a well-known law firm that has been involved in high-profile court cases like Bush v. Gore, which followed the 2000 presidential election.
Wright, court records show, has been accused of allegedly conducting "a scheme against Dave's estate to seize Dave's bitcoins and his rights to certain intellectual property associated with the Bitcoin technology."
"As part of this plan, Craig forged a series of contracts that purported to transfer Dave's assets to Craig and/or companies controlled by him. Craig backdated these contracts and forged Dave's signature on them," attorneys for the plaintiff wrote.
Included alongside the complaint are a number of additional filings, including the business registration for a firm called W&K Info Defense Research LLC, in which Kleiman and Wright were business partners.
In addition to the roughly 1.1 million bitcoins, Ira Kleiman is also seeking compensation for the intellectual property his lawyers claim arose from the partnership between his deceased brother and Wright.
"...Plaintiff demands judgment against Defendant for the value of the wrongfully retained Bitcoin and IP, together with court costs, interest, and any other relief this Court deems just and proper," the complaint states.
Wright issued a one-word comment on Twitter when asked about the lawsuit.
— Dr Craig S Wright (@ProfFaustus) February 26, 2018
Notably, the complaint doesn't seek to assert whether Wright is the person behind the Nakamoto identity, stating that "it is unclear whether Craig, Dave and/or both created Bitcoin" (though at least one observer says that the issue could ultimately come before the court if the suit progresses).
"For reasons not yet completely clear, they chose to keep their involvement in Bitcoin hidden from most of their family and friends. It is undeniable, however, that Craig and Dave were involved in Bitcoin from its inception and that they both accumulated a vast wealth of bitcoins from 2009 through 2013," it goes on to say.
The full complaint can be found below:
Justice statue image via Shutterstock