Computer scientist who claimed to be Bitcoin founder has assets frozen

A computer scientist who lost a High Court battle over whether he was the creator of Bitcoin has had his finances frozen for a second time as he waits to find out how much he will have to pay in legal fees.

Dr Craig Wright was sued by the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (Copa), a non-profit group including cryptocurrency firms, over whether he was behind the creator’s pseudonym, Satoshi Nakamoto.

Following a six-week trial earlier this year, Mr Justice Mellor said there was “overwhelming” evidence that Dr Wright is not Satoshi.

As part of the same trial, the Australian also lost a claim against several Bitcoin developers known as BTC Core, meaning he faces a legal bill expected to run into the millions.

On Friday, 13 of the BTC Core developers applied to the High Court for a worldwide freezing order against Dr Wright and two of his companies up to the value of almost £1.1 million.

Beth Collett, representing the developers at the hearing in London, said: “The purpose of this application is purely to protect the developers from the real risk that Dr Wright may dissipate his assets.”

Mr Justice Mellor granted the order to the value of £1.089 million, meaning Dr Wright cannot sell or reduce the value of his financial assets up to that figure.

But the judge said that Dr Wright could pay the money to the court by 4pm on Tuesday, which would allow him to avoid sharing details of his assets.

Dr Wright did not attend court, with a further hearing scheduled for April 26.

It follows Copa taking out a similar order against the computer scientist on March 27 to the value of £6 million.

Dr Wright is yet to discover how much he will have to pay in legal costs (Lucy North/PA)
Dr Wright is yet to discover how much he will have to pay in legal costs (Lucy North/PA)

Dr Wright has since paid the sum, which will be held by the court, although Mr Justice Mellor said on Friday that it was “clear” that this money had come from a third party.

The earlier trial centred around whether Dr Wright was Satoshi, who authored the white paper that established Bitcoin in 2008.

Jonathan Hough KC, representing Copa at the trial, told the court that Dr Wright’s claim was “a brazen lie and elaborate, false narrative supported by forgery on an industrial scale”.

According to a court transcript, Mr Justice Mellor said at the end of the trial that “the evidence is overwhelming” that Dr Wright is not Satoshi.

The judge will give his full written reasons for his decision at a later date.