Craig Wright case witness fears murder
Cryptocurrencies,  People

EXCLUSIVE: Craig Wright case witness fears murder, kidnapping

In an unreleased transcript, lawyers for someone who the people suing Wright want to question asked a judge to keep their client’s name secret out of fear of being targeted by criminals

Now a man is afraid of being murdered because of Craig Wright’s widely disputed claim to be bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

In an unreleased transcript obtained by Modern Consensus of the lawsuit seeking half of the $10 billion in bitcoins the real Nakamoto mined at the beginning of the bitcoin project—which Craig Wright has said he possesses—lawyers for an unnamed third-party pleaded with the judge not to release his name to the public for fear of extortion or murder.

Craig Wright case witness fears murder
Bitcoin fears are not unfounded (Photo: Federal District Court SDNY)

“We genuinely believe that the disclosure out there will subject the third party deponent and his family to real and unreasonable risk of harm to their safety, to theft, kidnapping—and I don’t… again, I hate to sound dramatic—extortion, and even murder, not because it has never happened, but because indeed it has happened, and it’s documented,” attorney Patricia L. Glaser told the court on April 24. “These are real risks, not imaginary ones. And if you simply, as we indicated, Googled, quote, Bitcoin murders, end of quote, it speaks for itself,” according to the unreleased transcript.”

Kleiman v. Wright

The ongoing lawsuit was brought by the estate of Dave Kleiman, Wright’s former business partner. Ira Kleiman claims that his adopted brother helped Wright create Bitcoin. That means half of the 1.1 million bitcoins mined at the beginning of the Bitcoin project by Satoshi Nakamoto, as well as half of the Bitcoin intellectual property, should go to his family. 

Wright claims he is Nakamoto. Very few in the cryptocurrency community believe him.

[Editor’s Note: Of course, no has been able to get their hands on the 1,100,111 bitcoin Wright has said are in a trust protected by passwords he has not yet been able to produce in court. And Kleiman’s lawsuit assumes Wright really is Nakamoto. Critics argue there is a fairly solid case that he’s lying, as Brendan documented in “The case against Craig Wright, Part I and Part II.” 

Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin chimed in on a Modern Consensus tweet about that story to say, “CSW is a liar.” 

Wright’s partner, Calvin Ayre, also tweeted a response to the stories, saying his “lawyers have seen the evidence an its overwhelming that Craig is Satoshi.”

The McCormack referred to is “What Bitcoin Did” podcast host Peter McCormack, who Wright is suing for libel.]

The judge agreed to have a “full-blown hearing on whether on the merits” of the third party’s claims to fear being kidnapped or murdered justify keeping his name secret on Tuesday, May 5 at 1 p.m.

It’s worth noting that COVID-19 has calmed the tenor of this previously contentious case. All parties and the judge spoke respectfully. There were no interruptions on the record, but the overall tone was that of lawyers with young children at home that they needed to get back to—and needed to avoid being contentious in front of.

Bitcoin kidnapping “trend”

It’s not unheard of. A February 2018 story in the New York Times reported on the trend of kidnappers extorting prominent bitcoin owners. 

“In the beach resort of Phuket, Thailand, last month, the assailants pushed their victim, a young Russian man, into his apartment and kept him there, blindfolded, until he logged onto his computer and transferred about $100,000 worth of Bitcoin to an online wallet they controlled,” the New York Times wrote.

Craig Wright case witness fears murder
Who is the unnamed “deponent?” (Photo: Federal District Court SDNY)

“A few weeks before that, the head of a Bitcoin exchange in Ukraine was taken hostage and only released after the company paid a ransom of $1 million in Bitcoin,” it added. “In New York City, a man was held captive by a friend until he transferred over $1.8 million worth of Ether, a virtual currency second in value only to Bitcoin.”

Craig Wright case witness?

So who is this mystery man” We have no idea.

Leave a comment if you have any guesses. 

For what it’s worth: discovery cutoff is today and that means the clock has run out on my subpoena so it’s not me. Please don’t murder me! Now isn’t a good time!

[Editor’s note: Brendan was subpoenaed by Kleiman’s attorneys, Velvel Freedman and Kyle Roche, after he exclusively interviewed Wright moments after a ruling that could cost the nChain chief scientist $5 billion.]

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Brendan Sullivan is a writer, producer, and author of the memoir Rivington Was Ours: Lady Gaga, the Lower East Side, and the Prime of Our Lives. Disclosure: he owns cryptocurrencies. Follow him on Twitter.