A legal battle was supposed to answer the biggest question in crypto: Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?
Well, that didn’t exactly happen. The identity of bitcoin’s fabled creator remains a mystery, despite high hopes that an unusual civil suit would lead to Nakamoto’s unmasking.
The Florida case looked like a run-of-the-mill business dispute. A jury rejected claims that Craig Wright, an Australian computer scientist, and David Kleiman, a computer forensics expert, had formed a business partnership.
What turned the case into a potential bombshell was the assertion that the alleged partnership led to the creation of bitcoin.
That was largely because of Wright’s claim in 2016 that he is Nakamoto, the mysterious computer scientist who wrote the original bitcoin white paper in 2008, which effectively launched the crypto revolution.
Wright created even more confusion by backing off from offering proof shortly after saying he would.
“I’m sorry,” he said in a blog post cited by the Wall Street Journal. “I believed that I could do this. I believed that I could put the years of anonymity and hiding behind me. But, as the events of this week unfolded and I prepared to publish the proof … I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot.”
The suit, filed by the family of Kleiman, who died in 2013, said he and Wright set up W&K Info Defense Research, which led the development of bitcoin. The family accused Wright of covering up Kleiman’s role in bitcoin’s launch. Nakamoto is believed to have mined 1.1 million bitcoin, now worth roughly $54 billion, before he ceased communications with the bitcoin community.
A jury rejected nine of 10 claims, including fraud and breach of partnership duties. But they sided with Kleiman’s estate on a claim that Wright breached intellectual property rights related to W&K Info Defense Research. Wright was ordered to pay $100 million in compensatory damages.
Both Wright and the Kleiman estate claimed victory in the case.
In a statement to the media, Wright’s defense team maintained that he is Nakamoto: “The decision reached by the jury today reinforces what we already knew to be the truth: Dr. Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto, the sole creator of bitcoin and blockchain technology.”
But there are many skeptics in the crypto realm.
“I don't think so,” Tad Park, CEO of crypto investment firm Volt Equity, told Protocol. “The burden of proof increases the more unbelievable the claim. If he truly is Satoshi, he should prove it by moving a random amount of bitcoin from an ancient wallet, but so far it has not happened.”
Bitcoin transactions are publicly tracked on a blockchain, making the movements of money traceable. Coins identified as Satoshi Nakamoto’s holdings have been long dormant.