Saturday, February 10, 2024

MJ : Being Satoshi: Inside Craig Wright’s decade-long fight to be the inventor of bitcoin

According to Google rankers and Deep Bloggers,   MEdia Dragon, in a year of the Dragon 🐉, will be next to be accused of being the creator of virtual currencies - so no wonder the family is coined Imrich

Back in May 2010 on MEdia Dragon’s real birthday, the first real-world purchase was made when programmer Laszlo Hanyecz bought two birthday 🎂 pizzas for 10,000 bitcoin – about $US20 at the time. They are now known as history’s most expensive pizzas.


 Craig Wright admits forging key documents to claim Satoshi Nakamoto identity


Being Satoshi: Inside Craig Wright’s decade-long fight to be the inventor of bitcoin

Australian computer scientist Craig Wright has long claimed to be the creator of bitcoin and owner of a $68 billion crypto cache. Now a court must decide whether it’s true- or a hoax for the ages. (Story refers to Adam Westwood)

It didn’t look like the redoubt of one of the most sought-after people on the planet. Overlooking the Macquarie Park cemetery in Sydney’s suburban North Ryde, the five-storey office building is typical of any low-rise business park. High concrete walls are punctuated with small windows, a wide lime stripe hinting half-heartedly at the modern.
But that’s where Australian Tax Office officers went on March 26, 2015. They were there to meet Dr Craig Wright, a computer scientist who was running several businesses from the address. Among them was CO1N, which claimed to use one of the world’s fastest supercomputers for research related to bitcoin.
Over a number of years, Wright had claimed millions in research and development tax rebates for his work. But the Tax Office had its doubts.
Specifically, the ATO was at C01N’s offices to verify the existence of a supercomputer, which Wright claimed the business had spent nearly $5 million on.

In documents tendered in a US court and seen by AFR Weekend, the Tax Office is revealed as having grave doubts that Wright had access to a supercomputer, or that the $5 million transaction even happened. It wanted to see the supercomputer being used to confirm it actually existed, but the demonstration underwhelmed.
“This demonstration and material appears to have been manipulated and displays numerous errors and anomalies,” the ATO wrote. “We conclude that the material shown to the ATO officers was created or altered in an attempt to deceive the ATO officers into accepting that the taxpayer had access to the purported C01N supercomputer for its activities.”
Wright, via a PR spokeswoman, “emphatically denied” the allegations in the ATO documents.
This engagement with the ATO sheds light on one of the most enduring mysteries of the internet age, and hints at the difficulties Wright faces in a blockbuster High Court case that began in London on Monday.
Those ATO investigations would lead, a few months later, to an Australian Federal Police raid on Wright’s North Ryde offices and his home in leafy Gordon, on Sydney’s upper North Shore. Ordinarily, raids on a businessman most people had never heard of would garner little attention. But on this December day, vision of officers wearing black and grey polo shirts, some embroidered with “Computer Forensics”, were flashed around the world.
That was because hours earlier, Wright had been outed as “Satoshi Nakamoto”, the pseudonymous figure who created bitcoin. “Satoshi”, as the person or people are universally known, is widely believed to be sitting on a stash of about 1.1 million bitcoin mined soon after the digital money was launched in 2009.
At the time Wright was first named as a possible “Satoshi”, bitcoin was trading for about $US400 a coin, making that stash worth about $US440 million. Today, it’s worth almost $77billion, enough to make its owner – assuming they can access it – worth almost twice as much as Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart.
The stories and raids set off a firestorm of response. Internet sleuths began digging into Wright’s past, crosschecking everything with what was known of Satoshi before he disappeared in April 2011. And like all the previously identified “Satoshis”, within days much of the internet had decided Wright was not the real deal.
ATO and AFP officers search the home Craig Wright had been renting at 43 St Johns St, Gordon, on December 9, 2015.  Nick Moir
If Wright was deterred, it hasn’t shown. For much of the past eight years he, with the backing of a controversial Canadian-Antiguan gambling billionaire, has fought a litany of legal battles against those he claimed had libelled him or illegally used the 2008 Satoshi white paper, which is credited as the beginnings of bitcoin and the blockchain.
He has patented the bitcoin white paper, and filed thousands of patent claims on uses for the blockchain. In one celebrated case, Wright defended a claim that the estate of a dead friend deserved half of Satoshi’s stash. Until now, however, judges have been clear that no decision has been made on whether Wright is indeed Satoshi, and have been at times scathing about the quality of his evidence.
All of which brings us to the UK High Court, where Wright is facing his biggest challenge yet. In London, he is lining up against the powerful Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA), an organisation backed by a list of the tech and crypto world’s biggest names, including Jack Dorsey’s Square and, until very recently, Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta.

Follow the money | Craig Wright and the birth of bitcoin

  • Aug 18, 2008 domain name registered.
  • Oct 31, 2008

    Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System is published by “Satoshi Nakamoto”. It describes in nine pages the blockchain-based system that solves the double spending problem without relying on banks.
  • Jan 3, 2009

    The first bitcoin software goes live claiming to allow payments “without going through a financial institution”. Open-source bitcoin code released by Nakamoto and the first block is mined.
For those betting on a blockchain-based future of payments, the stakes could scarcely be higher. COPA wants to prove once and for all that Wright is not Satoshi and, as such, has no legal claim to the underlying blockchain technology. That would, they say, clear the way for the code to be used patent-free across everything from digital currencies to voting in elections and operating internet of things appliances.
For his part, Wright claims intellectual property rights over the blockchain protocol and the famed Satoshi white paper. He claims cryptocurrencies are ultimately a Ponzi scheme, and that the paper he – as Satoshi Nakamoto – published in 2008 described a form of digital cash that cut out the banks by facilitating secure, provable payments for almost no cost. Wright says bitcoin was meant to allow billions of people to transact directly, without the need for a bank, not be an anonymous tool for criminals or a get-rich-quick scheme for speculators.
At the heart of everything is a system that delivers unimpeachable truth, he says.
But to win, Wright, 53, faces a sizeable challenge, and verifiable truth is at its heart. In years of pre-trial arguments, lawyers for COPA have indicated – and the court has accepted – that they will rely heavily on evidence that a history of unreliable documentation, such as that which underwhelmed the ATO and resulted in CO1N being slapped with a $2 million penalty, make Wright’s claims to be Satoshi unsustainable.
As the lawyers lay out their arguments, bitcoin watchers are focused on several questions. If Wright is Satoshi, why hasn’t he been able to prove it by simply accessing the wallets containing billions of dollars worth of bitcoin that have been dormant for years? How will the famously direct Wright, who has told courts he has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, perform in the witness box? And if he’s not Satoshi, as so many believe, why has he invested so much of his life – at the cost of so much grief – in trying to prove otherwise?
To understand a man who is either the personification of one of the century’s greatest myths or the perpetrator of a sustained and elaborate hoax, it’s necessary to start at the beginning. In Wright’s telling, the journey to the Royal Courts of Justice begins with a child and his grandfather in a basement at the other end of the world.

Who is Craig Wright?

The shape of any person is hewn in their childhood. For Craig Wright, the tools were primarily a single mother, a father broken by the Vietnam War, and a “pop” with a background in code breaking. The scene was the suburbs of northern Brisbane in the 1970s and ’80s, where his mum worked as a computer programmer. But it was Ron Lyman, his maternal grandfather, who Wright credits with setting him on the course to become the creator of the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency.
Lyman had been a radio engineer with the Australian Army during World War II and would go on to work in its signals division, now known as the Australia Signals Directorate.
”I think my father, Craig’s grandfather, had a great influence on him,” Wright’s uncle Don Lyman said in US court testimony in April 2020. Don Lyman described his father as a cryptology expert who worked with US General Douglas MacArthur during World War II. According to Wright, he worked on a program to crack purple, Japan’s version of the German enigma code. He also interrogated “high-value” prisoners of war in Indooroopilly in Brisbane.
In 2016, Wright co-operated on a 35,000-word story of his life he hoped would support his claim to be Satoshi. In it, he told Andrew O’Hagan of the London Review of Books that while his grandfather worked in his basement, he encouraged Wright to code as a way of keeping the boy out of his hair.
“‘I found this community of hackers,” Wright told the LRB. “I worked out how to interact with them. I started building games and hacking other people’s games. In time, I’d be pulling apart hacker code, and eventually I did this for companies, to help them create defences against hackers.”
In the offline world, however, Wright struggled to fit in.
He spent his last two years of school at Padua College, a Catholic school in the northern suburbs of the Queensland capital, before graduating in 1987. As one former classmate tells AFR Weekend, Wright was an “odd cat”.
“He was one of those guys, he was always trying to impress people and trying to fit in,” the former classmate says. “We went to camp, he brought along a ouija board, and he had a séance at a school camp. He’s out there on a different planet. I’m vanilla ice-cream, and he’s rocky road with sprinkles.”
In recent years, Wright has told courts in the US and UK that he has what he describes as Asperger’s syndrome. He suggests this has influenced his entire life. “Like it or not, I can honestly say that I have one of the highest IQs you’re likely to encounter,” he wrote in 2020. “It is counterbalanced by a severe deficit in social skills.”
“He was pretty smart, he didn’t get dux, but he was certainly up there,” says the former classmate. “It was more accounting and maths – he was one of the brighter boys.” 
Wright joined the Royal Australian Air Force after high school, but soon set forth on a lifetime of further education. In a 2014 interview with the ATO, he said he collected qualifications and had largely “been in university since I left high school”.
“I have around 200 vocational qualifications in my particular field, plus a number that aren’t.” Over lunch in 2022, Wright told The Australian Financial Review’s Europe correspondent Hans van Leeuwen the secret to earning 25 college degrees was simply to “get up early, go to bed late”.
“I’m qualified in everything from IT law and economics to the main areas I’m involved in, which is IT, so programming, photography, security, whatever else.” Add to that theology, which he studied after surviving a bout of cancer in his 20s.
During the 2022 lunch interview, Wright told AFR Weekend he was brought up as a Catholic but later converted to Wesleyanism. It’s an interesting, and perhaps instructive choice. For Wesleyans, the original scripture is sacrosanct and reveals the core of the Christian faith. It’s a sort of single source of religious truth, supported but never eclipsed by truth found in reason, tradition and personal experience. The belief is that if something is true, “it is as from the Lord”. The parallels with Wright’s messianic bitcoin mission are hard to miss.
After earning a doctorate in theology he became a minister in the church. But Wright had a tendency to rub people the wrong way and “the church, in their infinite wisdom, decided that I was better as a trustee helping manage the banking function and staying away from people,” Wright told AFR Weekend. “Probably true”.
In September 1996, Wright appeared on cypherpunks, an email list populated by a libertarian community of cryptologists and computer scientists, many with a strong anarcho bent. The cypherpunk members loosely coalesced around the idea that strong cryptography could be used to build privacy-enhancing technologies and effect social and political change. Being able to operate beyond the gaze of the all-seeing US government, particularly in payments, was a motivating idea, and when read on the mailing list archives today, the paranoia about US government control sounds like a precursor to more recent “deep state” conspiracy theories.
Long-archived posts on the list are revealing. There, among emails ranging in subject from tardy Telstra internet speeds to the security holes in the Commonwealth Bank’s internet banking service, Wright hinted at a disdain for taxes and government handouts, and an early battle with cancer,
“Personally, I paid my way through uni ... full fees. I took out a loan when I developed cancer to pay for it,” he wrote in one thread titled “Risk v Charity”. “The few months I was unemployed after I left the military because of a confict [sic] of interests I earned money by doing whatever I could get (even though I am an engineer I have worked in a petrol station). So why and for what reason sould [sic] I have to pay several 10’s of thousands each year to support others. I have never taken help from the govenment [sic], I do not feel I should have to pay as well,” he wrote.
“And what am I paying for ... to protect the status quo. I believe that there is more than enough help for ppl available. They just need to get off their butts and work.”
This DIY attitude, and a scorn for the status quo, would become life themes. But not everyone was impressed.
“Do we really need your amatuer [sic] political views?” replied a 25-year-old Julian Assange, 10 years before he founded Wikileaks.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission documents show that in 1999, Wright helped set up DeMorgan Information Security Systems, an IT security company. According to his own website, he “worked on systems that protected the Australian Stock Exchange, and has trained Australian government and corporate departments in SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition), security, cyber warfare, and cyber defence”.
But it didn’t end well. He resigned in 2003, and the following year, the Supreme Court of NSWconvicted Wright of contempt of court. After resigning, Wright had undertaken not to approach DeMorgan customers, including News Corp, ASX and Rail Infrastructure Corporation. But the court, and a subsequent appeals court, found that he had. He was sentenced to 28 days in jail, suspended if he performed 250 hours of community service.
From 2004, he worked for accounting giant BDO where, in an archived interview with MIS, a magazine then-owned by the parent company of the Financial Review, he was an early advocate for the use of biometrics and two-factor identification. Wright says that job ended on January 3, 2009, when he was laid off in the fallout from the global financial crisis.
In his telling, by this time he had been working on the idea of an electronic cash system for almost a decade.
“In ’07, ’08, I was working for BDO,” he told van Leeuwen. “I tried to flog off the idea [bitcoin] to them, and they didn’t take it up. I even tried to flog it off to Microsoft: I visited the Bing team, I went actually to Seattle. And they turned me down as well. I even talked to some people I know in banks in Australia. At the time it was new, untested, etc. And everyone thought I was mad.”
Wright says that without a regular job to attend to, he threw himself headlong into building bitcoin, often working from a property in Bagnoo, near Port Macquarie. But 15 years later, it’s the time at BDO – and two BDO-era thumb drives found in a desk drawer – that is shaping as central to his claim to be Satoshi.

The genesis of bitcoin

The idea of digital money has been around for decades. In 1982, “the godfather of cryptocurrency” David Chaum’s dissertation Computer Systems Established, Maintained and Trusted by Mutually Suspicious Groups laid out much of the framework for how a blockchain protocol would work. In 1995, Chaum created eCash as an anonymous cryptographic electronic cash system that could store money in a digital format. It was pitched as an alternative to credit cards. But despite being adopted by banks in several countries, including St George and Advance in Australia, it struggled to attract both shoppers and merchants, and went bankrupt in 1998. E-gold followed in 1996, but that was wound up after claims it was being used to launder money, and a US government prosecution. CyberCoin and others came and went.
While the public demand wasn’t there, the cryptography community kept working towards what many felt was their holy grail, a form of digital cash that could exist without the need for banks as “trusted third parties”, thus allowing transactions directly between buyer and seller without the fees and oversight of banks or the government.
The big question was, how? How can you know that the digital money you’re spending is only being spent once if there is no bank to verify it?
That was the problem Satoshi Nakamoto solved when he published a nine-page white paper, Bitcoin: a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, on October 31, 2008.
“I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party,” he wrote in an email to a cryptography list pointing them to the nine-page pdf on a newly registered He followed up with a succinct summary of how bitcoin would be different:
Double-spending is prevented with a peer-to-peer network.
No mint or other trusted parties.
Participants can be anonymous.
New coins are made from Hashcash style proof-of-work.
The proof-of-work for new coin generation also powers the network to prevent double-spending.
It was Satoshi Nakamoto’s first appearance on the forum, and the response was cautious at best. Among those seeking more detail was Hal Finney, a computer scientist who posted an email describing bitcoin as “a very promising idea”, before posing hundreds of words of questions. Finney would go on to be one of the primary developers of bitcoin.
In January 2009, things started to move more quickly. On January 3, Satoshi mined the first block of the bitcoin blockchain, yielding the first 50 bitcoin. Known as the genesis block, the code contains a headline from The Times of London: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.” The timing is significant. The story references the fallout from the global financial crisis, which killed some banks and resulted in taxpayers having to bail out customers whose savings had gone up in smoke. And in early 2009, it was far from resolved. As such, the inclusion of the headline in the genesis block, and the idea that bitcoin could free users from the banks, has become a point of almost mythical significance in the libertarian world of crypto devotees. Satoshi was, the story goes, more motivated by anger at a status quo where banks and politicians prioritised themselves over the public.
“The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work,” Satoshi wrote. “The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust.”
After some initial problems, Satoshi announced bitcoin to the cryptography community on January 9.
The bitcoin code was released onto the Sourceforge software repository with a note allowing it to be used by anybody under the terms of an “open source” licence developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the time, this was unremarkable in a community whose culture was “let the code be free”. But there was also an important designation: Copyright (c) 2009 Satoshi Nakamoto.
Along with instructions on how to download and use the code was almost a plea for people to get involved – without users, the distributed user-based system designed to collectively verify each transaction wouldn’t work. “I made the proof-of-work difficulty ridiculously easy to start with, so for a little while in the beginning a typical PC will be able to generate coins in just a few hours,” wrote Satoshi.
While it’s hard to imagine now, with one bitcoin selling for almost $70,000, in January 2009 its future was far from guaranteed. It took more than a year for a bitcoin to be worth US10¢, so Satoshi was, in effect, asking the cryptographic community for hours of their computing time to verify transactions – and in the process, mine a bitcoin – for nothing.
The first bitcoin transaction occurred on January 12, when Satoshi sent 10 coins to Finney.
But progress was slow. In May 2010, the first real-world purchase was made when programmer Laszlo Hanyecz bought two pizzas for 10,000 bitcoin – about $US20 at the time. They are now known as history’s most expensive pizzas.
As all this unfolded, Satoshi kept mining. But the lives of the two people Craig Wright has credited with doing most to establish bitcoin – himself as Satoshi and a Florida-based programmer named Dave Kleiman – were running off the rails.
By late 2010, Wright’s marriage to first wife Lynn was falling apart. The pair had met online in 1996, when Lynn was a nursing manager in a military hospital in Ottawa, Canada. Six weeks later, she told O’Hagan of the LRB, he proposed marriage. By the time she flew to Sydney to meet Wright, he was 26 and she was 44.
Having lost his job at BDO, the Wrights retreated to homes in Bagnoo, in the rural backblocks of Port Macquarie, and Lisarow on the Central Coast of NSW. There, surrounded by banks of computers, Wright says he spent most of the following couple of years working on bitcoin. Lynn told O’Hagan that Kleiman and Wright were best friends, and she knew they were working on bitcoin together. But money was tight and Wright was not an easy man to live with. “I knew he was working on it, and I didn’t ask because I knew he would bite my head off if I didn’t understand it,” she said. 
According to her later deposition to a Florida court, by November 2010 the pair had separated, the divorce was finalised in 2013.
Wright was familiar with online gambling, having worked for Centrebet in Australia in the late 1990s. He wrote on his blog that to pay for their ongoing work, he and Kleiman wrote code for illegal gambling operations in Central America. The proceeds could not be returned to the US legally, so they used Liberty Reserve, a digital payment processor based in Costa Rica, to move the money. But when Liberty Reserve was shut down by the US government, accused of laundering $US6 billion, the money dried up.
Kleiman was an army veteran and former county sheriff who had been paralysed in a motorbike accident in 1995. Like Wright, he would spend many hours in front of his screen in Florida. The pair had known each other – almost exclusively online – since about 2003. According to Wright, Lynn and Kleiman himself, the American was his best friend and a steadying influence. But like so much of the Wright story, the truth – even in a relationship conducted, and as such recorded, almost completely on email and in chat rooms – is remarkably hard to pin down.
Central to Wright’s claim to be Satoshi are emails in 2008 that show him asking Kleiman to help him edit the bitcoin white paper. Emails appear to show Wright describing his friend as critical in boiling down the geeky details into something more understandable. If Satoshi was the father of bitcoin, then Kleiman was the midwife, at the very least. But the veracity of these emails is heavily contested.
In April 2013, Kleiman, who had spent the previous three years in and out of hospital, was found dead in his home at the age of 46. There was a loaded gun and a bullet hole in the bed nearby, but according to the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s office, Kleiman died from complications from an untreated MRSA infection in his bed sores. It was reported he had 350,000 bitcoin on a hard drive, but the location of the encryption keys died with him.

Satoshi Nakamoto

The 15-year search to unmask the real Satoshi Nakamoto – whether an individual or a group of people – has become a white whale for journalists and the crypto community at large. The 500 or so emails and messages Satoshi sent under that name have been forensically analysed. Reputable publications from The New York Times to the New Yorker have bowled up people they claimed to be Satoshi, but all were quickly shot down.
Most notoriously, in 2014, Newsweek identified Dorian Nakamoto, an unassuming California physicist whose birth name was Satoshi Nakamoto. Vision of a dumbfounded Dorian surrounded by media outside his home was shown on news bulletins around the world and would be for many the first they had heard of bitcoin’s big mystery. Alas, Dorian Nakamoto had no idea about bitcoin, though the episode did elicit a statement from an account previously used by Satoshi, and untouched in five years, that said: “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.”
Add all this to the eight years of claim and counterclaim over Craig Wright, and you have one of the deepest rabbit holes on the internet. A quick Google search reveals almost everything Wright has claimed has been (often stridently) argued in hundreds of places online. Mostly these arguments are against, but there are a core of true believers who view Wright as upholding the central principles they believe Satoshi was serving when he invented bitcoin. (Though even those are argued over
One of the many ironies of the internet’s biggest mystery is that the pool of potential candidates is small.
Dan Kaminsky was a world-leading online security expert best known for uncovering, then working to patch, a weakness that could have brought down the internet. In 2011, he tried to crack bitcoin’s code. He was confident of success, but in numerous attempts could find no weakness.
“The way the whole thing was formatted was insane,” he told The New Yorker. “Only the most paranoid, painstaking coder in the world could avoid making mistakes.
“He’s a world-class programmer, with a deep understanding of the C++ programming language. He understands economics, cryptography, and peer-to-peer networking. Either there’s a team of people who worked on this, or this guy is a genius.”
The small cryptography community suspected Satoshi was one of them, but had no idea which one. And no one knew a coder called Satoshi Nakamoto. His email address and website were untraceable. And to many, that was understandable.
In the US, the act of creating a new “currency” is illegal, so owning up to being the mastermind of a project such as bitcoin would be inviting trouble.
But while most of Satoshi’s correspondence was about the technical side of bitcoin, there are a few things known that hint at the person behind it.
Satoshi was a native English speaker who wrote clearly. He was probably from a Commonwealth country because he used terms like “bloody hard”, spelt labour with a u, and referred to “flats” rather than “apartments”. He was a reader of The Times of London, and the particular way he wrote in the C++ code was popular in the late ’80s and early ‘90s. All of these fit neatly enough with Wright.
What doesn’t fit so easily are the times Satoshi posted and emailed. They suggest he almost never corresponded between 5am and 11am GMT, which is 3pm to 9pm in Sydney, but 1am to 7am on the US east coast.
Whoever Satoshi was, on April 23, 2011, he disappeared as mysteriously as he’d arrived. Satoshi had already gone quiet in public forums, unseen since mid-December, but had communicated intermittently with bitcoin developers, including Gavin Andresen and Mike Hearn, who worked for Google. His final message was to Hearn, stating he had “moved on to other things”, and that “[bitcoin’s] in good hands with Gavin and everyone”.
Satoshi was gone. All that remained was the seed of a myth and a helluva lot of bitcoin in Satoshi’s wallets.

Taxing times

After being laid off by BDO and moving to “the farm” in 2009, Wright starting setting up businesses across the internet security and, later, crypto spaces. By 2014, there were 16 separate entities, including a new incarnation of DeMorgan.
The new DeMorgan cast a wide net, branding itself as a “pre-IPO Australian-listed company focused on alternative currency, next-generation banking and reputational and educational products with a focus on security and creating a simple user experience”.
DeMorgan would ultimately become the largest shareholder in C01N, Integyrz and Zuhl, companies set up in 2011 and 2013 that would ultimately become the subject of an ATO investigation.
By any account, Wright was a busy man. On top of trying to build bitcoin, as he claims, and studying for more university qualifications, he was trying to establish from scratch and operate a lot of businesses. One person who worked on and off with Wright from 1998 told AFR Weekend, ”his output was phenomenal”. But long hours don’t automatically deliver revenue, and his businesses were in trouble.
Hotwire was established in June 2013 to do research and development into e-learning and e-payment systems and software. By April the following year, it had called in the administrators with debts of almost $13 million.
Wright might have long had a low philosophical regard for tax, as articulated in the 1996 rant that upset Julian Assange, and correspondence with Kleiman. But according to the ATO, he was prepared to “dishonestly create” and “doctor” documents in the pursuit of tens of millions of dollars in research and development tax rebates.
In May 2015, Wright sent out a press release via PRWire headlined: “The DeMorgan Ltd group of companies to receive up to $54 million from AusIndustry R&D Tax Rebate Scheme.” Given the level of scrutiny Wright’s companies had and would later receive, it might have been overly presumptive.
ATO documents, obtained by AFR Weekend, reveal audits of $3.27 million in R&D tax offset claims, and $2.4 million in other deductions in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 financial years for three of the companies, C01N, Integryz and Zuhl. “We consider the taxpayer made false or misleading statements. We consider the statements arose from the taxpayer’s intentional disregard of a taxation law. We also consider that the taxpayer did not have a reasonably arguable position,” the ATO’s paper on C01N stated.
They also reveal C01N was slapped with a $2 million penalty. Weeks after the ATO visited C01N about its supercomputer, they returned to North Ryde for Wright to run a demonstration of Zuhl’s so-called Tulip Trading supercomputer. The ATO, again, reckoned it was fake and AusIndustry – the federal government entity that provides support and grants for local businesses – at the Tax Office’s request, assessed Zuhl as failing to meet R&D requirements.
The ATO also claimed C01N provided “numerous conflicting statements and anomalies” about the $5 million supercomputer transaction. These included that the agreement failed to contain basics such as price, that parts of the R&D applications were plagiarised, and that numerous emails, text messages and Bitmessages (peer-to-peer communications) to support C01N’s claims “the ATO has examined and found to be false or doctored”.
“Taken together, these facts indicate that the taxpayer’s claim was based on a purported transaction that did not occur and services that were never provided. We infer that a significant number of documents have been deliberately and dishonestly created and submitted to the ATO in an attempt to substantiate the taxpayer’s claim,” the ATO said.
A public relations firm representing Wright says all the ATO’s allegations are “emphatically denied. “So far as any criminal investigation flowing from the allegations is concerned, it is public knowledge that the ATO executed search warrants in 2015,” a spokeswoman said.
The ATO said it could not comment on individual people or companies due to confidentiality laws.
Wright’s PR spokeswoman says as far as they are aware, no prosecution has commenced since the ATO raid, “notwithstanding the plethora of material seized by the ATO during the execution of the warrants and the significant time that has now passed”.
“The ATO has infinite resources and has had ample opportunity to pursue the allegations in the intervening period, but has not done so. We have no further comments,” she added.
As with so many claims against Wright, he met the ATO’s take on his supercomputers with an explanation that sounds plausible enough to raise doubts, and satisfy his supporters. Having asked Wright, the spokeswoman claimed the ATO sent multiple auditors to company premises and the ATO’s specialist auditor from their computer division ran through and validated the existence of more than 1000 machines.
But the spokeswoman claimed ATO’s computer specialist did not have experience with the processors used in the computers and the tests failed because they ran the wrong test.
“The ATO computer specialist could not determine how the machine was interconnected,” she said. The existence of the machines and payments was demonstrated, she said. “As the location of the machines was outside of Australia, the ATO attempted to argue that they should not be deductible.”
Despite Wright’s spokeswoman’s claims of ATO errors, in 2017, the Tax Office successfully applied to the Federal Court of Australia to wind up C01N, Integryz and Zuhl. Wright’s spokeswoman said that because the companies were insolvent, they could not contest the ATO assertion that they owed liabilities, including penalties, that were based on disputed tax assessments.
Years of hand-to-hand combat with the ATO had taken their toll, and by late 2015, Wright was done with Australia. Still short on money – despite Satoshi’s bitcoin stash continuing to climb in value – he and second wife Ramona Watts had loaded the contents of their Gordon home into shipping containers and told neighbours they were moving to London.
Then came December 8 and two stories that would turn their lives upside down, and begin what would become an eight-year journey towards the High Court in London.

The big claim

At first glance, the stories looked convincing enough. Within hours on December 8, 2015, respected tech-industry publications Wired and Gizmodo posted long investigations reporting with a high degree of confidence that Dr Craig Stephen Wright of Sydney was the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of bitcoin.
Their claims were based on a trove of documents allegedly stolen from Wright in a hack. Emails had date stamps that appeared to put Wright in the thick of the discussion of bitcoin before almost anyone else. When put together, the quantity and apparent quality of “evidence” painted a picture of a man with a credible claim to being the mythical Satoshi.
But there were questions, too, including why some important blog posts appeared to have been altered after 2013. It was enough for Wiredto leave open the possibility this could be a hoax “practically as ambitious as bitcoin itself”. Wiredsummed up the case as, “Either Wright invented bitcoin, or he’s a brilliant hoaxer who very badly wants us to believe he did”.
Like all previous Satoshis, the crypto community began to find cracks in the stories almost immediately. Journalists posted on Twitter with questions about how the story had come out.
“Got a very curious email attempting to dox Craig Wright – Wired’s Satoshi – back in Oct. Didn’t find it convincing at the time,” wrote Nathaniel Popper, journalist and author of Digital Gold. Doxxing refers to the publishing of private or identifying information on the internet, usually done with malicious intent.
“We all got it. It was being shopped around fairly aggressively this autumn,” Leah McGrath Goodman tweeted, posting a screenshot of an email alleging “satoshi is Dr Craig wright in australia and he is an asshole”. Kashmir Hill suggested “the mysterious person who “hacked” Craig Wright and gave his emails to reporters *is* Craig Wright”.

It didn’t help that within hours of the stories being published, Wright’s house in Gordon and the North Ryde office were raided by Federal Police and the ATO, sparking another global story. But as reporters from numerous agencies, including this masthead, descended on the home, Wright was nowhere to be seen.
“He came to the building with a lot of people – more than 20 working for him,” a neighbour of Wright’s offices at Macquarie Park told AFR Weekend. “They suddenly disappeared overnight.”
In the years since the story behind Wright’s disappearance from Sydney and dramatic reappearance in London – on BBC TV – six months later to “prove” he was Satoshi, the story behind it has become clearer. That clarity has only made Wright’s claim to be Satoshi murkier.
BBC is a British public broadcast service.
O’Hagan’s piece described a cat-and-mouse exit from Australia as Wright stayed just ahead of the police – acting for the ATO – and flew to New Zealand with nothing but two laptops and his passport.
In the background was Stefan Matthews. Based in Manila, Matthews was an Australian businessman whom Wright met in 2005 while conducting a security audit for Centrebet, the online gambling site. Matthews worked at Centrebet for a decade and was chief information officer. Later, he also did work for Antigua-based Bodog, an online gambling operation that would ultimately be shut down by the US government. But more on that later.
Matthews was part of an operation that, boiled right down, went like this:
In early 2015, millions in debt and badly wounded in a dogfight with the ATO, Wright approached Matthews several times. Matthews says that after ignoring a document Wright had asked him to read in 2008, he had by this time realised it was actually the bitcoin white paper. Wright, he therefore deduced, was very likely to be Satoshi. Given how big a deal bitcoin and blockchain technology had become, Matthews saw an opportunity and introduced Wright to Robert MacGregor, the Canadian founder and CEO of a money-transfer business called nTrust.
Despite some reservations, Matthews convinced MacGregor that Wright was the real deal, and by June 29, the two had struck a deal. It would see MacGregor spend about $US15 million to clear Wright’s debts and pay his lawyers, move him to London, and set up and staff a new company called nCrypt. In return, Wright would sign over all his companies and transfer his intellectual property – which Matthews believed to include a trove of papers on uses for the blockchain and some patents that were in progress.
There was another clause: Wright had to sign over his “life rights”. What Wright thought that meant is not clear, but for MacGregor, it was key. Wright would have to publicly own his claim to be Satoshi, and publicly prove it, too. All of this would, MacGregor hoped, establish nCrypt and its owner nTrust as a key player in the burgeoning world of blockchain, and set it up for a quick and very profitable sale to one of the Silicon Valley giants.
MacGregor was unabashed about his strategy, and described it to O’Hagan as: “Buy in, sell out, make some zeroes.”
Wright, however, wasn’t good at following the script. He was at times reluctant to claim all of Satoshi’s work as his own, spending hours giving credit to others. Some said he wanted the recognition, but he appeared to resent having to prove anything to anyone.
But why? Was he worried, as he has suggested, that being Satoshi would open him up to prosecution in the US because a method of payment he created was being used to help terrorists evade sanctions? (At the time, Islamic State was a huge story, running wild across the Middle East and into Africa). Was he worried that he couldn’t back up the claim? Or that the truth was not so simple, that it had been a group effort? Or that – as many others now believe – the whole thing was an extraordinarily elaborate hoax?
Whatever the reasons, the months of careful planning, of cultivating media and building a story (Wright claims some posts on his blog were written by MacGregor), came to nothing. It was a train wreck.
As well as giving O’Hagan six months of almost unrestricted access to Wright and co-operation from his family, MacGregor had promised exclusive news stories to the BBC and The Economist, and a feature to GQ (though none of these three were told about O’Hagan).
At 8am on May 2, 2016, the embargo lifted. As well as the BBC and Economist stories, Gavin Andresen – the Gavin that Satoshi famously handed over to when he signed off in 2011, saying bitcoin’s “in good hands with Gavin and everyone” – posted on his blog that after being flown into London and “spending time with him, I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt: Craig Wright is Satoshi”.
This, from the man who had effectively been the public face of bitcoin after Satoshi disappeared, was a vital endorsement to a sceptical community of crypto geeks. And despite the discredited “proof” that would follow, Andresen stuck with this line until last year, when he wrote that it was a “mistake to trust Craig Wright as much as I did”, though he didn’t retract his original statement.
Wright’s BBC appearance didn’t go well. A sort of signing ceremony, which was meant to prove beyond doubt that Wright had Satoshi’s cryptographic keys, was almost immediately dismissed as a cut-and-paste job, using an old Satoshi key. Wright insisted he would deliver more “extraordinary proof”, but a few days later he backed out, saying in a blog post, “I am not strong enough for this. I’m sorry”.
Dan Kaminsky, the late American security researcher who in 2011 described the skills Satoshi needed to write the bitcoin code, described it as a “scam”.
Even the two writers entrusted with telling the story were unconvinced. The GQ headline was definitive: “Bitcoin: inside the £8bn swindle.”
O’Hagan’s verdict was less conclusive but perhaps more damning. He suggested Wright might have been about 30 per cent Satoshi – a number way too low for Wright, but still far too high for his critics.
And out of all those words emerged a flawed character completely at odds with the image of the mythical Satoshi. Wright was brilliant to the point of awe among developers he had worked with, but a terrible communicator who would often struggle to relate his ideas. He was intellectually superior but socially stunted. And while he resented not being credited with his achievements, he thought his intellect would be enough to dig himself out of any hole. It wasn’t.
One anecdote from Wright’s mother was particularly revealing. (O’Hagan had access to Wright’s family and others in a way he hasn’t allowed since.) She said her son had a long history of embellishing true stories to make them sound bigger, and ultimately discrediting, or at the least casting doubt on, the story itself. “When he was a teenager, he went into the back of a car on his bike,” she said. “It threw him through the window of a parked car. That’s where his scar comes from. His sister accompanied him to the hospital, and he’s telling the doctor that he’s had his nose broken 20 or so times, and the doctor is saying, ‘You couldn’t possibly have had it broken’. And Craig says, ‘I sew myself up when I get injured’.”
Rather than being hailed as the inventor of the future of money, the man responsible for the democratisation of free markets, who would ultimately sweep away rent-seeking banks, Wright found that the more he said and wrote – the more the crypto community got to know him – the more doubters emerged.
And hanging over it was the most fundamental question of all: if he was Satoshi, why not just use his private key to access the 1.1 million bitcoins sitting untouched in the Satoshi wallets?

The $77 billion question

The nature of the bitcoin blockchain is that it’s both radically transparent and practically anonymous. The transparency comes from the fact anyone can see every transaction completed, for how much, and at what time. In theory, forever. Each completed transaction becomes another block in the chain, verified almost instantly by thousands of computers, known as nodes, around the world. What you can’t see is who the buyers and sellers are, because while each transaction is associated with a wallet address, wallets don’t have names attached unless the owner has shared that detail. All of which explains why crypto is so popular with criminals.
Unfalsifiable records of Satoshi’s personal bitcoin addresses are known because he conducted the first transactions on the genesis block. So, the easiest way for Wright to demonstrate he is Nakamoto would be to use his private key to access one of these wallets, which have remained untouched for years (occasional small deposits from Satoshi fans have added to the value of some wallets, particularly the genesis block).
That Wright still hasn’t done this casts a big shadow over his claim. If you are Satoshi, just prove it by accessing the stash, goes the common refrain. Wright’s explanation is complicated, and has shifted over time.
First, he claimed the cryptographic keys to bitcoin he and Kleiman mined in 2009 and 2010 were held via a trust set up in the Seychelles, out of reach of authorities in the US and Australia. In 2019, Kleiman’s brother Ira claimed his brother Dave co-created bitcoin and other related technology with Wright through a company the pair owned called W&K Info Defense.
Ira sued Wright for half of the 1.1 million bitcoin and payment for intellectual property he alleged had been stolen. Wright fought the claim and in the course of the years-long case told a Florida court that a “Tulip Trust” was created in 2011. He tendered what appeared to be a hastily drafted document, signed by Kleiman, which claimed Wright had transferred 1,100,111 bitcoin, worth about $US100,000 at the time, to Kleiman. Wright claimed the Tulip Trust was then set up in a way that meant no one could access the bitcoin until January 1, 2020
(In 2019, Wright told a Norwegian court he had drunk three bottles of wine before drafting the document, after being served with a bankruptcy notice that day. It included an unfinished sentence, mention of his separated and future wives, and a condition stipulating that if Wright died before 2020, whatever money didn’t go to future wife Ramona Watts “should be used to expose the lies and fraud perpetuated by Adam Westwood of the Australian tax office against Dr Craig Wright”. )
But when Wright needed to prove the Tulip Trust’s existence, he failed. Both the ATO in 2016 and the judge presiding over the Kleiman case in 2019, were unconvinced.
“Computer forensic analysis indicated that the Deed of Trust presented to the court was backdated,” Florida Judge Bruce Reinhart wrote. “The totality of the evidence in the record does not substantiate that the Tulip Trust exists.
“Combining these facts with my observations of Dr Wright’s demeanour during his testimony, I find that Dr Wright’s testimony that this trust exists was intentionally false.” 
When 2020 rolled around, Wright claimed the bonded courier did indeed arrive, but only delivered directions to a Tulip Trust 2 and another dead end. Despite two judges not believing the Tulip Trust story, the Florida court would ultimately agree with Wright that Dave Kleiman was not in a legal partnership with Wright, and as such had no claim on any bitcoin Wright might have mined. It was a significant win for Wright. But the jury ordered Wright to pay W&K Info Defense $US100 million for the intellectual property, which grew to $US143 million with interest added. The payment of the award is still being argued in the courts.
Kleiman’s case was never an argument of identity, with both sides saying that Wright was at least partially responsible for bitcoin’s creation. And because Wright won that case, he did not have to produce the Satoshi fortune and prove he had access to it.
That meant more questions, and more litigation.

Stories evolve

Aside from the aborted “proof sessions”, there are other parts of the story that are hard to explain. For example, Wright had emails with Kleiman he was happy to hand over, but told O’Hagan he had wiped emails from the same period with others who corresponded with Satoshi, including Andresen and Google engineer Hearn, while trying to stay ahead of the ATO.
Doubters claimed that Wright’s story about when he registered the domain was wrong because the domain wasn’t available at the time.
Details of stories would shift in ways his accusers found unbelievable. During the Kleiman case Wright, who had earlier said Dave Kleiman was instrumental in the creation of bitcoin, now said he had little to do with it. He had argued that David Rees, a retired Bletchley Park code breaker who died in 2013, had aided him, but after the ATO rejected that he stopped making the claim.
Instead, in a pre-trial deposition in the Kleiman case, he said his two helpers were his uncle, retired RAAF Wing Commander Don Lynam, AO, and a Gareth Williams. Lynam testified during the trial that, like Stefan Matthews, Wright had sent him an early draft of the bitcoin white paper in 2008 and that he believed his nephew was Satoshi.
Wright claimed to have been working with MI6 code breaker Gareth Williams before Williams was found dead in a bag in the bathtub of his London safe house.  
But like Kleiman and Rees, Williams could not testify because he was dead. Williams was a Welsh mathematician and GCHQ code breaker who had been on secondment to MI6 when he died. In court, Wright said he had helped Williams write code to crack into money-laundering investigations Williams was doing outside MI6. Wright said he, Williams and Kleiman had a three-way video meeting while Wright was in New York in January 2011. Wright testified that he was in the Big Apple en route to Venezuela, where he had been hired to track the movement of money associated with FARC, the Colombian revolutionaries. (Wright wrote in his blog that he was shot twice while on that “jawbreaker” mission in Venezuela). Wright also named Williams in a winding-up documentdated February 2011.
The problem was that by August 2010 Williams was already dead. His naked, decomposing body was found in the bath of his flat in Pimlico, central London, which was also a security service safe house. He was inside a zipped bag that was padlocked from the outside. The keys were inside the bag.
In 2022, during a defamation fight with a Norwegian school teacher who had tweeted that Wright was a fraud, he told a court that he had “stomped on the hard drive” containing the “key slices” he needed to get access to Satoshi Nakamoto’s private keys. He did it, Wright claimed, after attempting suicide following the botched signing ceremony in 2016. It was quite a change from the Tulip Trust story, and another claim basically impossible to verify.
Despite the doubts and scathing court assessments of his character, Wright refused to give up. Over lunch, he told AFR Weekend that was because “if I’m making a system that is about truth, then truth matters”.
“The funny thing is, when I released bitcoin, in the early days, people actually came out with things like the truth machine, and that was an early way of describing it. But all that’s been buried under the get-rich-quick and Ponzi schemes.”
Ironically, it is this attitude that appeals to the sizeable minority of true believers that do think Wright is Satoshi, or at least that he makes sense arguing that bitcoin has lost its way. It’s an argument based on Wright’s assertion that bitcoin (BTC) and bitcoin cash (BCH) – the two versions of bitcoin that “forked” from Satoshi’s original blockchain – have no purpose other than speculation.
BTC is the one typically referred to as “bitcoin” in stories about price spikes and troughs – it’s currently worth almost $70,000 a coin, having climbed 98 per cent over the last year. But trading in bitcoin is expensive, with fees often in the tens of US dollars per transaction.
Wright’s central argument is that this is the opposite of what Satoshi wanted. He argues bitcoin was invented to facilitate cheap peer-to-peer payments that were pseudonymous, not anonymous. That is, because every transaction is recorded, in theory the buyer and seller behind every criminal deal done on Silk Road or elsewhere on the “dark web” could one day be revealed. The digital fingerprints are indelible.
Craig Wright told The Australian Financial Review’s Europe correspondent Hans van Leeuwen that bitcoin was designed to be useful for small payments, not as a store of wealth. 
“They haven’t figured out that cash with an immutable database that can be seized, that can be traced, isn’t quite the same as the cryptocurrency that they wanted,” said Wright. The “they” include developers, some of whom he’s suing, who he accuses of bastardising the blockchain he created as Satoshi.
Critics have accused Wright of retrofitting these ideas into the Satoshi myth, pointing out that one of Satoshi’s first emails identified anonymity as a key attribute. But Wright doesn’t care. In late 2018, he and nChain helped spawn bitcoin Satoshi vision, or BSV, after a hard fork of bitcoin cash (a change in the underlying protocol). Wright envisages BSV will handle huge transaction volumes, each with a microscopic fee, would be enough for bitcoin miners to make good money from transaction fees. And that would allow people in poorer countries to have a stable, reliable means to trade and transact.
“Not $40 fees, but 1000th of a cent – that is the concept, micropayments,” he told AFR Weekendduring the 2022 lunch interview. “Like it says in the damn paper. What I don’t want is people to come along and gamble and speculate. What I want is people who build things. I want this to be plumbing. People may not even realise they’re using bitcoin. If they don’t even know, I’ll be happier.”
Of all the believers, none have invested as much as the mysterious Calvin Ayre.

The great patent play

Calvin Ayre has been a gambler his whole life. In his first job out of college in Canada, he was caught insider trading, fined $10,000 and banned from running a public company for 20 years. He moved to Costa Rica and started Bodog, which before long would be the biggest name in online gambling. And by 2006, he was on the Forbes’ billionaires list. But six years later, he was indicted on charges of running an illegal gaming business and money laundering. The domain was shut.
Ayre retreated to his Antigua base and steered clear of the US until 2017, when the Department of Justice dropped the charges after he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanour charge and copped a $US500,000 fine.
Ayre comes into the Craig Wright story via Stefan Matthews, the former Centrebet CIO who helped the Wrights out of Australia after the Satoshi news broke in 2015. Ayre decided to bet on Wright, and over the following few years would back him as his fellow Canadian MacGregor bowed out, nCrypt became nChain and Wright started litigating like there was no tomorrow. Ayre’s media firm bought and relaunched as a crypto “news” website publishing decidedly pro-Wright content.
Bodog founder and owner of CoinGeek Calvin Ayre, 
But while Wright was nChain’s chief scientist, the main game was less about bitcoin than patents, and laying claim to the thousands of ways the blockchain could be used in a web 3 world. In August last year, Ayre Group announced a €520 million investment in nChain.
“nChain has a portfolio of over 3900 patents and applications, of which over 1090 have been granted,” nChain chief commercial officer James Marchant told AFR Weekend this week. “We rank number six globally for the number of active patents related to blockchain technology.” He said the IP related to using core blockchain technology infrastructure in areas including healthcare, supply chain, and gaming. Patents for using blockchain for voting and the internet of things have also been lodged.
In 2019, Wright actually registered the Satoshi paper with the US Copyright Office. He says this vindicates his claim, although registrations are not subject to the same extensive process to grant a patent, and copyright does not protect his so-called invention of bitcoin.
During Wright’s lunch with the AFR, he gave an insight into how he wants to leverage his claims and take a clip of the money flowing through digital currencies. He claimed to have more than 100 patents on central bank digital currencies so, if the Reserve Bank of Australia or US Federal Reserve want to create one, “I’ll knock on their door to pay me licence fees. If they don’t want to, it will be prohibitively expensive. If they do, it won’t be. I mean, I can be incredibly fair and cheap and then make it open and competitive. Or not. And I’m very happy either way.”
For nChain, the digital currency that could run all these applications is BSV, which Wright and nChain have built to have no cap on block sizes. That is important because it means fewer blocks need to be mined, using far less energy, and allowing for dramatically faster transactions.
But Wright’s legal engagements were taking a toll. In 2021, he won a default judgment on copyright infringement against for hosting the famed bitcoin white paper without his permission. But when he won against blogger Peter McCormack for calling him a fraud, he was awarded just £1 in damages because he had given “deliberately false evidence” about how badly he had been affected.
Several big crypto exchanges have stopped listing BSV, in part due to Wright’s attempts to tie up the blockchain rights. At nChain, patience was wearing thin.
In September, chief executive Christen Ager-Hanssen left the firm and claimed on X there was a conspiracy to defraud nChain shareholders “orchestrated by a significant shareholder”, as well as finding “compelling evidence that Dr Craig Wright has manipulated documents with the aim to deceive the court he is Satoshi”.
nChain returned fire, alleging it was the former chief executive who “conducted himself in a serious and inappropriate manner”. Wright stepped down as chief scientist, but said he would continue to consult to nChain.
The legal hits kept coming. In a 900-page report, forensic experts decided a majority of the documents Wright planned to rely on in the upcoming COPA case were not what he said they were. Wright then submitted two more thumb drives he found in a desk drawer at home, allegedly containing documents from his time at BDO in 2008. They, too, were examined, and a majority were found wanting.
Justice Sir Edward James Mellor, who studied and worked as a production engineer before returning to Cambridge to study law, postponed the trial from January 15 to February 5 to allow for these 97 belatedly tendered documents to be analysed. There was, after all, more than just the COPA action to consider. Mellor had been dealing with three other actions involving Wright’s claim to be Satoshi. Given identity was a key issue in each, he agreed in July to roll all four actions into the COPA v Wright case.
Then, a week before the trial was due to start, Wright dropped a bombshell. In a blog post and a half-page ad in The Times, he offered to settle the case: “The focus of my various litigations to date has never been on revealing my pseudonymous identity as Satoshi Nakamoto, but on mandating that bitcoin remains faithful to its central principles.” He offered “to waive my database rights and copyrights”, and to offer “an irrevocable licence in perpetuity to my opposing parties”.
COPA was having none of it. “Just like Craig Wright forges documents and doesn’t quite tell the truth, his description of the settlement offer isn’t quite accurate either – it comes with loopholes that would allow him to sue people all over again.”
After a decade of skirmishing, from fighting the ATO to Norwegian YouTubers, COPA was adamant that the trial to definitively decide whether Craig Wright was Satoshi should proceed.

Truth and dare

COPA’s case is, simply, that Wright’s claim to be Satoshi is a lie, founded on an elaborate false narrative and backed by forgery of documents on an industrial scale. “As his false documents and inconsistencies have been exposed, he has resorted to further forgery and ever more implausible excuses.”
Even before COPA’s barrister Jonathan Hough, KC, cast that first stone in the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Monday, the COPA legal team had made it clear its case would rely heavily on an argument that Wright had spent years using his IT knowledge to invent, doctor and backdate documents to support his claim to be Satoshi.
And when it finally began, almost three years after the suit was filed, the cross-examination of Wright was brutal. Wright, dressed in a trademark double-breasted three-piece suit with a prominent pinstripe, faced a barrage of forgery allegations. Armed with forensic assessments from two experts, Hough presented one document after another with technical details about how, he alleged, they were not what they purported to be.
Dr Craig Wright arrives at the Rolls Building, part of the Royal Courts of Justice, to be cross examined on Tuesday.  Getty
Wright denied it all, offering explanations typically around document metadata being altered when they were subsequently opened on more recent software versions.
Just as it has always said it would, COPA is going in for the kill. The alliance includes more than 20 companies from the tech and cryptocurrency industries, including Block, Coinbase, MicroStrategy, Kraken, Chaincode Labs, and Uniswap. Meta also joined, but has recently disappeared from the COPA website.
There is a lot at stake. COPA has portrayed the fight over patents, starting with who wrote the bitcoin white paper, as a fight for the future of money and who is allowed to partake in it. But because COPA is the plaintiff, it must demonstrate that Wright is not who he claims to be.
In opening arguments, Wright’s counsel, Lord Anthony Grabiner, KC, pointed to the absence of any other credible candidate. “An interesting feature of this case is the non-appearance of a competing Satoshi Nakamoto claim,” he said. “It’s sort of Hamlet without the prince.” Grabiner claimed that while COPA might attack the veracity of the documents Wright had provided, it had “been unable to point to any evidence that Wright is not Satoshi”.
As for nChain, when asked whether it still believed Wright was Satoshi, and whether it mattered, Marchant said: “nChain’s business model is in no way impacted by the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. Dr Craig Wright is one of the world’s foremost experts on scalable, enterprise blockchain technology, and we are happy to have him as one of our advisers.”
Whether the truth will set anyone free remains to be seen. Because even if Justice Mellor’s decision reshapes the way we use the internet, and who makes money from it, it is unlikely to end the argument over the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, and the future of his 1.1 million bitcoin.