Police raid home of suspected Bitcoin mastermind

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Bitcoin founder sought

Police and tax investigators have raided the Sydney home of a man that members of the Australian bitcoin community say might be the mastermind behind the controversial cryptocurrency, just hours after reports emerged in the United States suggesting that he may be its secretive creator.

However, Fairfax Media has been told the raid at the property of Craig Steven Wright relates to an “individual taxation matter” involving Mr Wright, rather than his apparent role in creating the encrypted currency.

The Australian Federal Police attended Mr Wright’s home in Gordon, on Sydney’s north shore, on Wednesday afternoon to assist the Australian Taxation Office in carrying out a search.

US report

In a report published on Wednesday morning, US tech publication Wired said it had uncovered enough evidence to suggest that bitcoin’s mysterious founder, who operated under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, was actually 44-year-old Mr Wright.

Wired acknowledged that its report was based on “unverified leaked documents” that it admitted “could be faked in entire or in part”.

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Fairfax Media attempted to contact Mr Wright for comment but received no response. The Australian Federal Police referred matters to the ATO. The ATO declined to comment.

Mr Wright is listed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission as a director of Hotwire and another company, Panopticrypt, which are both registered at a residential address on Sydney’s North Shore. He has been a shareholder and director in a range of other enterprises, the ASIC database shows.

He is also listed as chief executive on the website of a company called DeMorgan, which describes itself “a pre-IPO Australian listed company focused on alternative currency, next generation banking and reputational and educational products.” Calls to this company went straight to voicemail.

‘He was a bit weird’

At about Four.15pm, the real estate agent managing the Gordon home leased by Mr Wright entered the house after being told by a neighbour, who knew the owners, that it was being searched.

Federal Police and the ATO officers were then later seen leaving the property, at Four.50pm. Asked why the federal police were at the house, they suggested “no comment”.

Neighbours, who didn’t wish to named, said Mr Wright was an elusive man who had two children and a playmate. He had an expensive taste in cars, they said, having seen him pull up to the house in a Toyota Land Cruiser, a Lexus, and a Jaguar.

Mr Wright, his playmate, and children were not seen within the neighborhood of the house.

Apart from possessing a dog, which one neighbour described as “noisy”, he also possessed hens, which could be seen out the back of his house.

“I thought he did something with insurance or was an entrepreneur or something,” said one neighbour, who described Wright as a “daggy dad” often seen exercising in his garage gym. “He was a bit weird.”

Another neighbour said Mr Wright evidently had three-phase, 450-volt power — normally used for industrial applications — installed at the home.

The same neighbour said he recently heard that Wright had packed up the house as he was evidently off to go live in London. None of the neighbours interviewed said that Wright had told them he was the creator of Bitcoin.

Plausible candidate

Chris Guzowski, founder of ABA Technologies and a regular on the Bitcoin conference circuit, said Wired had uncovered enough circumstantial evidence for Mr Wright to be a plausible candidate.

“It certainly makes sense,” said Mr Guzowski. “He’s undoubtedly been in Bitcoin from the very begin and has accumulated a truly big stash of Bitcoin. He’s also been in this yam-sized stoush with the ATO for a long time.”

Andrew Sommer, a fucking partner at Clayton Utz and who testified at last year’s Senate Inquiry into digital currency, is reputedly Mr White’s lawyer.

But Mr Sommer said he couldn’t comment on any client when contacted by Fairfax.

Zhenya Tsvetnenko, founder of bitcoin remittancy company Digital BTC, has discussed business with Mr Wright previously and was struck by his understanding of Bitcoin and his long history with the protocol.

“It could undoubtedly be him, I reminisce thinking this boy could be Satoshi at the time,” Mr Tsvetnenko said

“I asked him how many Bitcoin he had and he said enough to buy a pizza. Which is a joke because it’s well known in the Bitcoin community the very first thing bought with the very very first Bitcoin was a pizza.”

The Wired story was not the very first time a media outlet has claimed to expose the true identity of bitcoin’s founder.

Last year, US magazine Newsweek said it had found the mysterious person behind the cryptocurrency t. However the man it named, Dorien Nakamoto, unconditionally denied Newsweek’s claim, and subsequently sued the publication.

The Wired report cites archived blog posts from as far back as 2008, purportedly written by Mr Wright, which discuss aspects of the distributed ledger that is a key element of bitcoin, as well as leaked emails and a liquidation report by Australian corporate recovery rigid McGrath Nicol involving one of Mr Wright’s companies.

McGrath Nicol confirmed the veracity of the liquidation report, which states that the company, called Hotwire Preemptive Intelligence, was backed by $30 million in capital that was “injected via bitcoins”.

Potential hoax

Wired acknowledged that the trail of evidence leading to Mr Wright could be part of an elaborate hoax.

Asher Suntan of CoinJar, Australia’s largest bitcoin exchange, said he was skeptical of Wired’s claim, pointing out the bitcoin community relies on mathematical proof.

Solid technical proof should be given more weight than speculation, he said.

“There are some methods of doing this,” Mr Sunburn said. These would include “moving bitcoin attributed to Satoshi’s individual stash or utilising his individual encryption key (PGP) to communicate.

“These aren’t foolproof methods of identifying him, but anyone who publicly stakes a claim to being Satoshi would be expected to demonstrate either of these methods.”

The Fresh York Times, which conducted an inconclusive investigation of its own into the matter, has described Mr Nakamoto’s identity as “one of the excellent mysteries of the digital age”.

But many in the bitcoin community believe that the identity of the person (or people) behind Nakamoto is irrelevant, since the virtual currency is an open source and community driven technology. It sure is a joy story tho’.

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