Bitcoin, released to the world in 2009 by a person or people called Satoshi Nakamoto, is not backed by a central bank or a government and is seen as an alternative payment system. In February 2013, Bitcoin went into the mainstream as a monetary crisis threatened to bankrupt Cyprus, seen as a safer bet. Early adopters of Bitcoin have been richly rewarded as the price has soared – in one case, a young Norwegian bought a house from an $850,000 windfall on a US$22 investment.
Singapore police probe ‘unnatural’ death of American CEO of bitcoin trader
Police are investigating the death of the 28-year-old American boss of a Bitcoin exchange found dead at the base of a Singapore apartment block.
They say Autumn Radtke's death - the latest misfortune linked with the troubled virtual currency - appears "unnatural".
Police in the city state do not expect foul play. The term "unnatural death" is used to refer to suspected suicides and other deaths not due to natural causes like an illness.
Radtke, chief executive of Singapore-based First Meta, was found dead on February 26.
A local technology website initially reported that she may have committed suicide, but later updated its report to say it was "unclear" how she died.
Broadcaster Channel NewsAsia said on its website yesterday that Radtke "was found dead at the bottom of an apartment block".
The virtual-currency community is in turmoil after the collapse of Tokyo-based MtGox, one of the longest-established Bitcoin exchanges, due to a suspected theft worth nearly half a billion dollars. Canada-based Flexcoin was also forced to shut down, saying that someone attacked its systems and stole nearly US$600,000 worth of Bitcoins.
Zennon Kapron, the Shanghai-based managing director of Kapronasia, a financial consulting firm which deals with Bitcoin firms, said: "Until we know what happened around [Radtke's death], it is wrong to speculate on whether there is a relationship between that and the situation with Bitcoin as a whole."
The Singapore Police Force said it received a call early on February 26 requesting assistance at a public housing block on the fringe of the central business district.
"A woman in her 20s was found lying motionless," it said. "She was pronounced dead at scene by paramedics. Police are investigating the unnatural death. Preliminary investigations show that no foul play is suspected."
A US embassy official confirmed that Radtke is an American citizen and that it has provided assistance to her family.
News of Radtke's death first surfaced in the technology start-up community, which has a thriving presence in Singapore.
First Meta confirmed her death in a statement on its website but did not give a cause.
"Our deepest condolences go out to her family, friends and loved ones. Autumn was an inspiration to all of us and she will be sorely missed," it said.
Kapron described First Meta as one of the pioneers of virtual currency exchanges.
"What happened to [Radtke] is very unfortunate ... She was somebody always very happy, outgoing, and had a way of bringing people together both within the virtual currency community and outside as well," he said.
He said Singapore's openness to new payment methods, its talent pool and its status as a financial hub made it a "natural place for Bitcoin firms to get a start", along with Hong Kong.