Something about bitcoin inspires people to jump on airplanes and fly to the other side of the world to protect their wealth. Maybe that’s part of bitcoin’s ‘inherent value’.
Kolin Burges was a software developer in London until the end of last year, when his vast Litecoin holdings suddenly went lunar. Concerned at the prospect of a Chinese New Year crash he moved much of his wealth back to Japan and Mt. Gox, only to find it locked in there around the same week.
Inspired by last week’s three-day sit-in protest by Australia’s pseudonymous CoinSearcher, Burges bought a last-minute ticket (at the cost of £850) and flew 12 hours from London to Tokyo to see for himself what was happening. He said:
“They haven’t answered anybody’s support requests, they seem to have just taken people’s money – they’ve taken my money.”
After arriving in Japan on Wednesday, Burges tried to schedule an appointment with the company’s executives, but to no avail. On Friday morning he set up camp outside the Mt. Gox offices in Tokyo’s Shibuya district – despite the freezing temperatures.
At 9.15am he confronted Mt. Gox’s CEO Mark Karpeles outside the exchange’s front door and demanded to withdraw his coins, but the response was: “We can’t right now.” Burges’ next question: “Do you still have everyone’s bitcoins?” didn’t get a response.
Burges admitted that a doorstop challenge would probably be futile, but said the wealth that he has stored in Mt. Gox’s servers is definitely worth it. “If I lose that, my lifestyle will change. I just didn’t want to lose that amount of money without a fight,” he said.
Burges says he’ll stay in Tokyo until next week, camping out at Mt. Gox’s offices again if necessary.
When he announced his travel and protest plans on Reddit, the response was mixed. While some supported his effort, others said Mt. Gox had already given a credible explanation for the withdrawal problems and should be allowed time to fix them.