The MtGox saga continues with the surprise ‘discovery’ of 200,000 bitcoins on March 20th. Plantiffs track the missing bitcoins by blockchain-forensics.
The coins were found in what the exchange called a forgotten ‘old-format’ wallet that was audited in the course of Gox’s civil rehabilitation proceedings. MtGox’s statement drew attention to the fact that this reduced the number of missing coins to around 650,000, of which 550,000 belong to customers.
Earlier this month the defunct exchange took the exasperating step of allowing former users to log in and view their ‘balances’ – without, of course, being able to withdraw their funds. The news of the 200,000 coins was greeted with both relief and howls of scepticism from customers who had lost money, many of whom suggested that the exchange had been hiding the coins intentionally to profit from them at a later date.
One of the most intriguing features of this saga has been users’ ability to carry out their own investigations, thanks to the distributed and transparent nature of the blockchain. Their palpable frustration at MtGox’s lack of openness has resulted in some members the bitcoin community going it alone, carrying out CSI-style searches of Gox’s transactions to determine where their lost or stolen coins have ended up. Earlier this month a US judge presiding over the case took the unprecedented step of allowing plaintiffs in a class-action suit to track the missing bitcoins. In a twist worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, this remarkable development heralds a new era in forensic accountancy, blurring the lines between victim and detective and enabling the case for the prosecution to crowd-source thousands of hours worth of expert investigation from those who have most to gain.
The discovery of 200,000 coins came shortly after such bitcoin detectives found 180,000 ‘Goxcoins’ on the move in the blockchain. One user posted evidence on reddit and pastebin that stolen Goxcoins were being sold on Bitstamp, appealing to Bitstamp’s CEO to investigate. On the bitcointalk forums, a whole thread was established to pool the community’s efforts.
No doubt that these amateurs are better qualified to track the missing bitcoins than any official investigators. On 23rd March, an English translation of a Japanese article appeared on Reddit, claiming to have tracked the withdrawal of 530,000 bitcoins from MtGox between 7 and 10 March. The document stated that ‘massive bitcoin withdrawals were made which should have been impossible for anyone other than those with special bitcoin exchange access rights, such as representatives (i.e., Mark Karpeles) of the rehabilitation debtor (MTGOX).’
This has raised further suspicions of foul play, since in a press conference on the exchange’s bankruptcy on 28th February, MtGox stated of the missing 850,000 bitcoins: ‘Virtually all of it is gone.’
The case continues but, as the Reddit thread acknowledges, ‘The mystery remains entirely unsolved.’
by Brandon Hurst.