Man who claims to have created bitcoin is sued for US$5 billion by family of hacker who was found dead

Dave Kleiman’s family say that he and Craig Wright both helped found bitcoin – and that Wright owes them half of the $11.6 billion fortune they made

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 4:26am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 9:42pm

The family of a programmer who was found dead in 2013 has filed a US$5 billion lawsuit against Craig Wright, the man who has claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of the digital currency bitcoin.

The family of Dave Kleiman said in the lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in Florida, that the two men jointly owned roughly 1.1 million bitcoin and a company. 

However, they claim, when Kleiman died Wright backdated contracts to transfer the ownership of the coins and intellectual property to him.

Tech firms show there is more to blockchain than cryptocurrencies

Kleiman’s family claims they are owed at least half of the bitcoin mined by the two men. The estimated value of Wright and Kleiman’s bitcoin holdings is roughly US$11.6 billion.

A bullet hole in his mattress was found. The exact details surrounding his death remain unknown
Lawsuit’s description of how Dave Kleiman’s body was found in 2013

The suit also provides a grisly description of Kleiman’s body: “His body was decomposing, there were wheelchair tracks of blood and fecal matter, open bottles of alcohol and a loaded handgun next to him. 

“A bullet hole in his mattress was found. The exact details surrounding his death remain unknown.”

Wright did not immediately respond to a request for comment through his company nChain.

Wright and Klein – who was left in a wheelchair following a 1995 motorbike accident – became friends online in 2003 thanks to a shared interest in cryptography, The Telegraph reported.

Five years later, bitcoin was launched by “Satoshi Nakomoto” – an unknown figure whom Wright, an Australian, claimed to be in 2016.

In 2007, a year before bitcoin launched, Kleiman wrote to Wright, saying “I have been working on a new form of electronic money. Bit cash, Bitcoin … [y]ou are always there for me Dave. I want you to be part of it all” the lawsuit claims.

“It is unclear whether Craig, Dave or both created bitcoin,” the court filing says, adding that both men kept it a secret from their families for reasons unknown.

Man mugged in Taiwan's first bitcoin robbery

“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.”

Kleiman died in 2013, the suit says, and months afterwards Wright told the dead man’s brother, Ira, about their involvement in bitcoin. Ira said Wright told him Kleiman had sold his part of the company for stock in an Australian company worth “millions”. 

Wright said he also planned to sell his stock in the same company, but fled to London when the Australian tax office began an investigation, leaving it to go bankrupt, the suit claims.

Last year, Wright publicly claimed to be “Satoshi Nakomoto” and promised “extraordinary proof” of the claim.

Crypto broker Octagon Strategy taps into demand from big investors

However, in May of that year he made a U-turn, writing: “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 of access to the earliest keys, I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot.”

Many of those following the story said that his backing down was proof that he was not, in fact, Nakomoto.

Jerry Brito, executive director of Washington-based digital currency advocacy group Coin Center was one of them.

Speaking at the time, he said: “The possibility that Wright is Satoshi will always exist, but given the amount of evidence calling that into doubt, I think one would be foolish to give that possibility much weight.

“He’s provided no cryptographic evidence verifiable by the public, and many of his answers sound plain fishy … Today’s statement on his blog only further tarnishes his credibility.”