This is part one of a three-part series exploring Craig Wright’s claim that he is Satoshi Nakamoto - Bitcoin’s pseudonymous
In part one, we investigate Wright’s childhood and career, leading up to when he first started claiming to be Satoshi.
In part two, we examine the ATO investigation into Wright’s companies, his ‘outing’ as Satoshi by Wired and Gizmodo, and how the world reacted to the evidence.
And in part three, we scrutinize the evidence Wright supplied to the media and Gavin Andresen
during the infamous ‘proof sessions,’ his attempts to save his reputation through the ‘Sartre proof,’ and his lawsuits against anyone who dares to say he’s not Satoshi.
*Where a fact is commonly known or widely reported, we do not cite a source. As a whole, sources are only listed where facts are specific, arguable or, otherwise, notable.
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Of all the people who could be Bitcoin creator, Satoshi Nakamoto
, the most controversial is Craig Wright
: the crypto-sphere’s persona non grata.
Wright is one of the very few people who claim to have created Bitcoin, yet many have issues with his claims.
Our task here has been to untangle this complex and knotty web of events to make sense of it all. We’ve done so by assembling what we know about Wright’s life and personality from several hundred sources into as comprehensible a narrative as we reasonably can.
So rather than listing the evidence for and against him, which others have already done very well, we’ve pieced together Craig Wright’s story into a single narrative, starting with his childhood.
1: The Early Years
Craig Steven Wright was born and raised in Brisbane, on the East Coast of Australia. His father, Frederick Wright, soldiered
in Vietnam and possibly worked for the NSA. while his mother stayed home and raised him.
with Wright’s mother and Wright himself suggest he was a troubled and lonely kid. He was mercilessly bullied at school, and his home life wasn’t much better. His father, Frederick, was a violent drunk who “lost all his friends
” after leaving the military. He was violent toward Wright’s mother, who eventually left him.
Craig Wright had a complicated relationship with his father. “He [Frederick Wright] never admired me,” Wright said
in 2015. “I was never fucking good enough.” To feel like you haven’t lived up to your parents’ expectations is, of course, a common, almost universal feeling. Even so, this belief that he wasn’t “good enough” would greatly influence Wright’s behavior, and possibly shape the course of his entire life.
Wright became fascinated
with computers and coding at an early age, thanks to his grandfather, Ronald, who served as a signals officer and possibly as a spy for the Australian military. After retiring, Ronald built a home computer lab in which he taught his grandson, Craig, to build and break proprietary computer programs. These early experiences, Craig says, would shape his computing career in the years to come.
During his formative years, Wright fostered an obsession
with Japanese culture and philosophy (the samurai in particular). According to his mother, Wright would leave the house dressed in full samurai attire, which greatly embarrassed his sisters. He still collects samurai swords to this day and keeps a suit of armor in his office.
As a teenager, Wright became interested in martial arts
. His teacher, Mas, instructed him in Judo, Karate, and even Ninjutsu (ninja warfare), which involved learning 18 separate disciplines like disguise and concealment. Not all his hobbies were quite so badass - however, he was also a keen Dungeons and Dragons player.
During one of his martial arts training sessions, Wright learned about a Japanese philosopher called Tominaga Nakamoto, who criticized religions that insist authority must come from traditions and history, like Buddhism and Confucianism. He would later swear that this belief inspired the ‘Nakamoto’ part of the Satoshi Nakamoto pseudonym.
The ‘Satoshi’ part, Wright says
, came partly from the name of Pokémon’s protagonist - Ash Ketchum - and partly because he believed Bitcoin to be the “phoenix” from which our society would be “reborn.”
Ash Ketchum, Pokémon protagonist.
This explanation doesn’t stack up. Wright assumed that the name ‘Satoshi’ translates to ‘Ash’ because the character was called Satoshi in Japan and Ash in the English-speaking version of Pokémon - but that’s not the case. Ash was just a random name the writers chose, and not a translation of Satoshi, which is actually a common boy’s name in Japan signifying intelligence and wisdom.
Already we’ve stumbled upon the first of many plot holes in Wright’s story of how he invented Bitcoin. As you’ll discover, there are many instances where Wright has played fast and loose with the truth: a tendency
which, according to his mother, emerged during his childhood.
She first noticed Wright’s loose relationship with the truth in his teenage years, when he would lie, constantly, about seemingly inconsequential matters, apparently in order to impress those around him.
“When he was a teenager,” she said
, “he went into the back of a car on his bike. 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 twenty 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.’” Of course, Craig hadn’t broken his nose twenty times, nor had he ever sewed himself up.
It's not clear why Wright began embellishing his stories and achievements, but one thing’s for sure: it’s a behavior that persists to this day. Even now, in 2023, after he’s been caught out by tax officials, journalists, researchers, lawyers and judges over a period of three decades, he still can’t tell a coherent story.
One minute he’ll sign an affidavit
to the Australian Supreme Court attesting to his involvement in an American company, only to swear in a US court that he had nothing to do with the company. He reported his Bitcoin as “stolen” by “burglars” to the UK police, but two years later, he told a Norwegian court that he stomped on the hard drives and destroyed them himself in order to not give his critics “the easy way out.” Before that, he’d told his financial backers that the keys were held in a trust and that he couldn’t access them.
Incongruities like these are sprinkled throughout Craig Wright’s statements and stories, which has frustrated every effort to understand his story, including this one.
Wright joined the Australian Air Force
straight out of high school, where he claims to have worked on a smart bombing system: “We needed fast code, and I did that,” he said. Wright says he was “locked” in a “bunker” while coding, which seems a bit far-fetched. There’s little reason to think the Australian military would employ a high schooler with no advanced degrees to design cutting-edge bombing systems in the first place, let alone lock him in a bunker while he was doing so.
But then again, as is often the case with Craig Wright’s tales, his coding experience and the bunker form part of an unfalsifiable story. Disproving stories like these is difficult because it often requires you to prove a negative
, which, while not impossible, is usually a tiresome task.
For instance, imagine someone told you they had secretly traveled to the moon. You’d say “That’s preposterous, prove your claim!” to which they then say “If you can’t prove that I didn’t go, then I must have gone. And if you ever say I didn’t go (thereby improving the negative), then I’ll sue you for calling me a liar.”
This hypothetical case, more or less, sums up the difficult nature of arguing against anything Wright says: most of what he says is plausible (or at least theoretically possible), but it’s nearly always unverifiable, and, therefore, difficult to disprove.
2: Wright’s Early Career
Following a skin cancer scare, Wright left the Air Force and embarked
on a career in IT. His first jobs were for an Australian internet service provider called OzEmail and the retail chain K-Mart, after which he worked for the Australian Securities Exchange.
At some point in his early thirties, he started working with gambling firms like Centrebet and Lasseter’s Online, where he claims to have masterminded the architecture for the world’s first online casino. He also worked for Playboy and a few unnamed Costa Rica-based casinos as well.
Wright’s experience with gambling sites (and online poker rooms in particular) would coincidentally provide some evidence backing up his claim to be Satoshi. Because in 2012, it was discovered that the earliest version of Bitcoin’s code
contained GUI code for a poker client. Wright of course claims this is vindicating evidence, while most others consider it to be coincidental.
While working in IT, Wright began amassing qualifications in an impressively wide array of subjects: theology, physics, management, law and statistics, to name a few. He has continued earning numerous qualifications every year up to the present day and often claims his vast qualification collection acts as supplementary evidence of his Satoshi claims.
During a presentation in 2018, he actually wheeled out
all his qualifications in a wheelbarrow in order to “shut down skeptics.” Showy stunts like these, as most people know, usually backfire and make the braggart look weak and insecure. As when someone is overhead drunkenly boasting about the car they drive or their salary, most of the people who watched Wright wheel out his degrees simply cringed.
We should, at this point, ask why someone would spend such an inordinate amount of time, money and effort achieving endless qualifications. You would expect Wright to believe that, by some point, he’s qualified enough.
It’s possible, therefore, that there’s a link between Wright’s feelings of not being “good enough” for his father and his endless desire to prove he’s qualified by completing degree after degree.
3: Striking Out Alone
At 26, Craig met his first wife Lynn, a 44-year-old nursing manager, through an online dating platform. They messaged back and forth for six weeks, and then Wright proposed. They divorced after fourteen years together but still stay in touch - if only to support one another in court
Lynn was approached by journalists after Wright was “outed” as Satoshi in 2015. She told them he “always has to be the best” and that “the hard part about that is he left bodies by the wayside. He stepped on people… He’s got a very sociopathic personality.”
To judge whether Craig Wright is in fact a “sociopathic” character falls well outside the purview of this article. But we know for sure that Wright staunchly denies such diagnoses, and has since supplied an alternative diagnosis of autism to explain his behavior.
This diagnosis emerged in the middle of a court case in 2021. Dr. Ami Klin, who diagnosed Wright as autistic, said
that autistic people often “speak with supreme confidence” and “they often do not pick up on sarcasm, metaphor or humor, nor do they realize they are being judged in social settings.”
Dr Klin giving evidence at a trial in Norway while Craig Wright listens in the background.
Dr. Klin later added
, “[Craig] ended up alienating his peers and he was mercilessly bullied, ridiculed and ostracized.” This testimony to Wright’s ‘alienating his peers’ after being bullied at school is consistent with statements his mother made to the same effect. After receiving the diagnosis, Wright published an article
on his blog titled “As an Autistic Savant” in which he modestly claimed to have “one of the highest IQs you’re likely to encounter,” and that he doesn’t lie well.
1997, one year after Craig and Lynn married, Craig launched
DeMorgan – an IT security services firm that designed security systems for Australian finance firms.
After six apparently successful years at the helm, he sold
5% of the company’s shares to Michael Ryan for $50,000 (AUD). Ryan’s money came with a few strings attached: a non-compete agreement that demanded Wright stay at the helm for the foreseeable future, and an agreement that, should Wright leave DeMorgan, he couldn’t start a new company and poach all of DeMorgan’s clients.
A few months after handing over the $50k, Ryan discovered some irregularities in Wright’s spending in the DeMorgan accounts. When he confronted Wright, both Wright and Lynn resigned from DeMorgan as directors and set up a new IT firm, leaving Ryan scrambling to keep DeMorgan afloat.
Wright then contacted all of DeMorgan’s clients and brought them over to his new firm, in spite of the non-compete agreement. He didn’t bother trying to cover his tracks: he sent emails and invoices to his old clients using his real name, phone number, and email address.
Ryan quickly discovered Wright was poaching his clients from under his nose. He took Wright to court
, where a judge was shown the non-compete contract and duly ordered him to cease and desist all contact with DeMorgan’s clients.
He did not comply with this order.
Even after he was found guilty of breaching a non-disclosure contract, Wright carried on poaching DeMorgan/ Ryan’s clients as if the judge’s order was a mere suggestion, or as if court rulings shouldn’t apply to him.
Predictably, Wright’s one-time investor, Michael Ryan, again discovered Wright’s antics (and again without much effort) and was understandably furious. Ryan brought Wright back in front of the same judge whose ruling he had brazenly disregarded months earlier.
that the emails and phone calls to DeMorgan’s clients came from his devices, but said in his defence that someone else had sent them. In other words, he was being set up. He neglected to mention who these dastardly crooks were, however, or why they had made him into a patsy.
Needless to say, the judge
was not impressed by Craig’s testimony. “When the evidence is viewed as a whole,” he said, “the inescapable inference is that Mr Wright sent the emails and Mr Wright made the telephone calls…There is no reasonable doubt in my mind that someone else made the phone calls.”
Craig was sentenced to 28 days in prison. In his ruling, the judge cited
Craig’s “deliberate flouting” of the previous order, and his “lack of contrition” as reasons why involuntary incarceration was necessary to “bring home to a contemnor the seriousness of his contempt.”
After this legal altercation, Wright finally stopped poaching his old clients from DeMorgan. Even so, the company folded not long later. Ryan chased Wright through the courts until 2013 when he begrudgingly handed over $425,000 to liquidators in order to avoid bankruptcy
Following the DeMorgan fiasco, it seems Craig temporarily lost his appetite
for running his own firm. He instead worked as an information systems manager for an accounting firm called BDO for four and a half years.
Halfway through this hiatus, in 2006, he tried to declare bankruptcy. According to Australian public records, his filing for personal insolvency was denied, although the reasons why he filed in the first place or why he was refused weren’t disclosed.
Things went from bad to worse for Wright in the first week of 2009 when he was made redundant from his role at BDO due to the 2008 financial crisis. Firms of every size were shutting their doors at the time, and jobs were desperately hard to come by.
With nowhere else to go, Craig and Lynn packed up their belongings and moved to a farm
in Port Macquarie, halfway between Brisbane and Sydney along Australia’s East Coast.
It was there, Wright claims, on a farm in rural Australia, that Bitcoin grew from a tentative idea into a revolutionary invention.
4: Satoshi Emerges
Satoshi Nakamoto was an intensely private person who went to great lengths to protect his identity.
Statue of Satoshi Nakamoto in Budapest, Hungary.
All we know about him comes from the messages and emails
he sent to Bitcoin users and developers, and what he wrote in the Bitcoin whitepaper
. What follows is an account of the facts we know about Satoshi which are relevant to Craig Wright.
The first person we know Satoshi contacted about Bitcoin was Adam Back
, a Cypherpunk who invented the Hashcash proof-of-work
system that Bitcoin (and many other cryptocurrencies) use today. The Cypherpunks, for reference, are a group of cryptography experts who study how privacy and encryption tools are used, especially in light of how they can lead to big changes in social, political, or economic life around the world.
Adam Back, cryptographer.
In August 2008, Satoshi sent Back an early draft of an e-cash whitepaper (which eventually became the Bitcoin whitepaper
). Back connected Satoshi’s ideas with those of Wei Dai, another Cypherpunk who invented a forerunner to Bitcoin called b-money.
Dai later shared the emails
with a London Times journalist sniffing around for any clues about Satoshi’s true identity. They didn’t reveal much, except that Satoshi sought a reference for the Bitcoin whitepaper after the fact. This means he contacted Dai on Back’s suggestion, but told Dai that Bitcoin built on his b-money ideas, which is a bit odd.
It’s unclear how Satoshi could have built Bitcoin on Dai’s ideas if he’d only heard about them after creating Bitcoin. It’s possible that Satoshi meant that Bitcoin builds on his ideas rather than he built Bitcoin using Dai’s ideas. But it’s also plausible that Satoshi either couldn’t (or was unwilling) to cite the true source of Bitcoin’s inspiration and used b-money as a placeholder instead.
Satoshi shared his whitepaper with the Cypherpunk mailing list on October 31st, 2008, and later sent it to the P2P mailing list as well. At the time, the Cypherpunk mailing list was comprised of technical experts like Wei Dai and Adam Back, as well as Craig Wright and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder.
Interestingly, Assange once called out Wright for suggesting people on welfare “need to get off their butts and work.” He wrote, “Do we really need your amateur political views?”
The first person who replied to Satoshi’s whitepaper was Hal Finney
: a computer scientist perhaps best known for inventing reusable proof-of-work – an invention so important that without which, Bitcoin might not exist.
Hal Finney, cryptographer.
In one of their first conversations, Satoshi told
Finney that he wrote all of Bitcoin’s code before he wrote the whitepaper, in order to convince himself that he could iron out any creases before publishing the whitepaper. He later added
that he was “better with code than with words. These assertions indicate Satoshi (1) wrote and edited all the Bitcoin code himself, alone; and (2) is a highly adept coder.
This doesn’t match up with Craig Wright’s version of events. Wright says
that he wrote Bitcoin’s code, but that his coding skills were “frankly…crud.” He also says his friend Dave Kleiman edited the Bitcoin code. “Dave could edit his way through hell and back,” he told Ira Kleiman, Dave’s brother.
Throughout his forum posts and emails, Satoshi employed British
, and not American, spellings: cheque rather than check, for instance. This implies he learned English either in Britain, Europe or in an ex-British colony, such as Australia. His use of British spellings doesn’t totally preclude American-born coders from being Satoshi, it just means they probably grew up outside America.
Given that Wright grew up in Australia and uses British spellings, this should count as a small win for him. However, about 110 million other people use British spellings as well, including many people who also could be Satoshi, so it hardly constitutes a smoking gun.
During the early stages of Bitcoin development, Satoshi was helped by a Google engineer called Mike Hearn. In one of their email exchanges
, Satoshi wrote, “It was necessary to make it [Bitcoin’s code] as basic as possible so I could crawl over every line of code to convince myself it was airtight.” Here, as in the Finney email exchange, Satoshi makes clear that he did all Bitcoin’s coding himself.
Mike Hearn, Google Engineer and Bitcoin developer.
When Satoshi reached out to Adam Back and Wei Dai in the summer of 2008, Craig Wright was still working in the risk services department of BDO, the accounting firm. He was managing
the company’s data analysis and mining, as well as its IT forensics, auditing and security.
He didn’t work at any other companies at the time, but he was studying for a law degree at the University of Northumbria in the UK, which he finished in 2008. So Wright has
a law degree and regularly describes
himself as a lawyer with a specialist understanding of financial law.
Satoshi, on the other hand, is not a lawyer. Or at least that’s what he told Mike Hearn via email
a year after Wright finished his law degree
. “I am not a lawyer,” he said.
Wright has made no attempt to reconcile this incongruity in his story. His supporters, however, argue Wright was deliberately putting journalists and Reddit sleuths off the scent - as if he were playing some hyper-complex game of 4D chess. This explanation is technically possible, but it’s about as weak as an explanation can be.
Satoshi’s Bitcoin finally made mainstream(ish) news when PC World published a blog piece
exploring the link between Bitcoin and Wikileaks. The article described Bitcoin in a broadly positive way. The author suggested
Bitcoin could solve the “PayPal online payments monopoly
,” and that it is a “real, actual currency.”
Satoshi, however, didn’t look
kindly on the piece. His chief concern was that the piece would damage how the public perceived Bitcoin: “WikiLeaks has kicked the hornet’s nest, and the swarm is headed toward us,” he wrote.
A bit further down the road, in December of 2010, Mike Hearn asked Satoshi to explain why Bitcoin’s block size was limited to 1MB. Satoshi told
Hearn the blockchain’s size was the important factor in his decision, but that a larger block size could be “phased in” once the blocks start filling up. He also suggested that Bitcoin network nodes would one day “consolidate” and form “pooled mining and GPU farms.”
Three weeks later, in January 2011, Satoshi told
Hearn that Bitcoin underwent “two years of development” before it was released. This conflicts with Wright’s account of events. Wright says he developed Bitcoin in the early 2000s and pitched it the to Australian government under the name ‘BlackNet.’
In April 2011, Satoshi abruptly told Mike Hearn that he had “moved on to other things,” and the Bitcoin project would be led by another developer: Gavin Andresen.
Gavin Andresen, cryptographer and lead Bitcoin developer.
is a software developer who worked in Silicon Valley developing graphics software before joining the Bitcoin community. He made a name for himself in Bitcoin by developing the Bitcoin faucet in 2010, which gave free Bitcoin to anyone who solved a captcha.
Many attribute Bitcoin’s early success to the faucet as it helped rapidly scale Bitcoin. The faucet’s success probably explains why Satoshi worked with Andresen so closely over the following eighteen months and eventually handed him the reigns to the entire project.
In his final message
to Andresen, Satoshi wrote, “I wish you wouldn’t keep talking about me as a mysterious shadowy figure, the press just turns that into a pirate currency angle. Maybe instead make it about the open source project and give more credit to your dev contributors; it helps motivate them.”
Despite Satoshi’s request for less mystery, this message’s meaning was itself mysterious until 2014, when Andresen shed some light on it and the circumstances surrounding Satoshi’s disappearance.
It turns out that at some point during the month before Satoshi vanished, Andresen accepted an invitation to speak about Bitcoin
to the US intelligence community at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Satoshi probably wasn’t all that impressed by this decision, with him having built a revolutionary monetary system outside the control of any central bank or government agency, the CIA included.
In his last ever message
to Satoshi, Andresen wrote, “I hope that by talking directly to them and, more importantly, listening to their questions/concerns, they will think of Bitcoin the way I do - as a just-plain-better, more efficient, less-subject-to-political-whims money [and] not as an all-powerful black-market tool that will be used by anarchists to overthrow the System.”
Satoshi never replied.
5: Moving to the Outback
Craig Wright. Source, Blockworks.
Craig Wright was made redundant from his job at the accountancy firm BDO during the fallout from the financial crash in 2008. He and his wife Lynn upped sticks and moved to a farm just outside Port Macquarie, a small town halfway down the East Coast of Australia.
The newly jobless Craig Wright wasted no time feeling sorry for himself. He launched
a new company (the first of many) called ‘Information Defense Pty Ltd,’ which secured and maintained code for various online casinos and sports betting operations just weeks after moving out to the sticks
Two months later, in March 2009, he launched
‘Integyrs Pty Ltd,’ a risk modelling company which analysed code for “a major multinational gaming company.” And finally, in November 2009, Wright founded GreyFog, which developed security software for the digital media industry.
Given Wright was running three companies
throughout 2009, it seems unlikely that he would have had time to create Bitcoin and manage its ongoing development as well. It’s not impossible of course, but he probably wouldn’t have slept much.
of Satoshi’s work schedule indicates that, in order for Wright to have been Satoshi, he must have kept up a bizarre sleep schedule. An analysis
of Wright and Satoshi’s email timestamps show that Satoshi was inactive between 07:00-12:00 UTC, indicating that’s when he slept; whereas Wright’s timestamps show he was inactive between 13:00 and 18:00 UTC.
The analysis shows Wright’s work and sleep schedule matched up with someone living in Australia’s AEST time zone (where he did in fact live), whereas Satoshi’s timestamps correlated with someone living and working on the US East Coast (EST). So going by their email timestamps, Wright and Satoshi worked on completely different schedules.
So, did Wright really manage to finish a law degree, run three companies and develop Bitcoin on just two or three hours of sleep per night, all by himself? This seems a little far-fetched. He must have had help, surely?
Indeed, Wright doesn’t claim to have developed Bitcoin alone. Instead, he says he developed Bitcoin with a little help from an American IT cybersecurity expert called Dave Kleiman.
6: Dave Kleiman and the Origins of the Tulip Trust
Dave Kleiman lived in Palm Beach, Florida, and worked as a computer forensics professional. His career began in the US Army and continued with the Palm Beach Police Department, where he worked as a detective.
Dave Kleiman, cybersecurity expert.
Kleiman was paralyzed
from the waist down following a motorcycle accident in 1995, after which he was employed as a system security analyst for the Computer Crimes Division with the Palm Beach Police Department.
Over the years that followed, Kleiman became deeply engrossed in computer forensics and security. He established himself as an expert in the field over the next decade and appeared on the local news to explain digital security concepts to the folks at home. Kleiman was occasionally known as ‘Dave Mississippi,’ thanks to the seemingly endless string of three-letter qualifications which appeared after his name.
It’s not clear when or where Wright and Kleiman began their friendship, but the “why” is readily apparent: they had a lot in common. Both men served in the military, both were considered exceptionally intelligent by their families and peers, and both were obsessed with computing.
They only met in person once, in March 2009, at Disneyland
. Here, Wright claims he and Kleiman laid the groundwork for a massive Bitcoin mining operation that would see them amass more than a million Bitcoin.
According to Wright, Kleiman ran the mining operations from “outside Australia,”
(presumably somewhere in Florida) while controlling the mined Bitcoin via a Trust.
The only witness present during these conversations in Disneyland was Lynn Wright. When Lynn was interviewed by Andrew O’Hagan for his piece The Satoshi Affair in the London Review of Books
, she confessed she only remembered the two men were very animated and passionate in their discussions, and that she didn’t understand a word they were talking about. What they discussed was highly technical, she said. As such, no eyewitness can confirm whether any such Bitcoin mining operation existed.
There is, however, a trust agreement
between the two men which appears to set out financial arrangements for the proceeds of a joint mining operation, called the ‘Tulip Trust
Extract from the Tulip Trust Agreement.
The trust agreement states that Wright would lend Kleiman 1.1m Bitcoin in exchange for $100,000, which Kleiman would return on January 1st, 2020, in the form of a Seychelles-based company.
The trust agreement lends the impression that Wright created this trust in order to temporarily move his assets outside of his control in order to protect them from the authorities.
Two clauses imply: one acknowledges that by moving assets “in a manner he cannot access,” Wright would be in breach of Australian law; another says that some amount of Bitcoin would be used to show the “lies and fraud perpetrated by Adam Westwood of the Australian Tax Office against Craig Wright.”
The Trust agreement is an interesting piece of evidence, but it lacks evidential rigour. Firstly, no notary stamp (or equivalent proof) proves it was created on the date Wright says it was. He asks that we just take his word for it. Secondly, the document contains a number of grammatical and legal oddities, like sentence fragments: “[the trust] will be designated by “Tulips” and the trading that was noted to have not been a bubble but… [the sentence ends here].” It’s not clear what bubble Wright referred to here, or how it related to Bitcoin or the Tulip Trust.
Another fragment puts the agreement’s entire validity into question: “[Wright] has agreed with his wife, Ms Lynn Wright that they he will maintain the Bitcoin at the expense…” Who would maintain the Bitcoin – they, or he? Also, who they are isn’t clearly specified.
The agreement ends with some bizarre and confusing conditions setting out who would inherit the Bitcoin if either Wright or Kleiman died unexpectedly. It says that if Wright died, his wife Lynn would receive no Bitcoin. Instead, it would all go to Ramona Watts - Wright’s colleague and second wife, who he married in 2013, two years after this agreement was purportedly signed. Lynn probably wasn’t chuffed about being cut out of a billion-dollar fortune in favor of another woman.
Extract from the Tulip Trust Agreement, showing Ramona, not Lynn Wright, would inherit Wright’s fortune should he pass away.
These irregularities indicate whoever put the agreement together did so quickly, and lacked the experience necessary to do so in such a way that the document would appear “convincing.”
Dave Kleiman, whose signature features at the bottom of the Tulip Trust document, spent 850 days
in a veteran’s hospital in Florida starting in September 2010 owing to an MRSA infection.
Despite his debilitating physical condition, he and Wright tried to win contracts to develop software for Homeland Security via a company called “W&K Info Defense Research,” which Kleiman incorporated on Valentine’s Day 2011. This company would become central to Wright’s Satoshi claims in future years.
In an affidavit
submitted to the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Wright claimed his and Kleiman’s Bitcoin mining operations centered around W&K. Although it was later shown that Wright (or one of his associates) faked Kleiman’s signatures in the affidavit, it’s important to note that Wright signed a document attesting to the fact that he and Kleiman mined Bitcoin together va W&K Ltd.
It’s important because, in 2018, Kleiman’s relatives sued Wright for half the Bitcoin he said he and Kleiman mined together. Kleiman’s relatives argued Wright’s affidavit proved Kleiman had been involved in Wright’s Bitcoin mining operation, and was therefore entitled to half of Satoshi’s Bitcoin stash. It turned out to be a very expensive lawsuit for Craig Wright.
7: Wright + Kleiman = Satoshi?
Dave Klieman and Craig Wright.
We know that Craig Wright and Dave Kleiman were two highly-qualified, intelligent and like-minded guys who probably had the technical know-how to have developed Bitcoin. Let’s take a look at some of the key pieces of evidence from this period that might prove Wright really did invent Bitcoin.
The first piece of evidence is an email exchange
between Wright and Kleiman from March 12th, 2008. The emails show Wright asking Kleiman to help him edit a paper about “a new form of electronic money” called “Bit cash” or “Bitcoin.” In the email, Wright states he would only release Bitcoin under a pseudonym, although he doesn’t explain why. The sender address’s domain name, information-defense.com, presumably comes from Wright’s company of the same name.
Evidently, if the email was genuine, it would vindicate Wright. However, its legitimacy has been called into question on numerous counts, first and foremost because we’ve only ever seen screenshots of the email, and not the email itself. It’s therefore impossible to verify whether the email ever existed, or whether someone simply created it using Photoshop.
Furthermore: (1) it’s unclear whether Wright actually controlled the email domain from which he purportedly sent the email at the time it was sent; (2) Wright didn’t launch the company from which the email domain takes its name until a year after the email was allegedly sent, which hasn’t been explained; and (3) the content of this email was contradicted by another email
Wright sent just one week previously, in which he wrote, “Anonymity is the shield of cowards, it is the cover used to defend their lies. My life is open,” and “I have little care for my privacy.” This hardly seems like the opinion of a man who operates behind a pseudonym.
The second key piece of evidence was a blog post
titled “Bitcoin,” which appears to have been published on Wright’s blog on January 10th, 2009. In the post, Wright writes, “The Beta of Bitcoin is live tomorrow. This is decentralized... We try until it works.”
Like the aforementioned email, this looks like hard evidence at first glance. However, also like the email, there are several reasons to doubt the blog post’s authenticity.
First and foremost, the internet archives
have no record of the post before June 2014, which suggests (but doesn’t necessarily prove) that Wright (or one of his associates) created the page in 2014 and backdated it to give the impression he published it in January 2009.
Moreover, archived versions of his site don’t mention or link to this post, which again suggests Wright backdated the post. Furthermore, Wright’s assertion that Bitcoin would go live “tomorrow” (January 11th) was incorrect: Bitcoin’s genesis block was mined on January 3rd, a week before this post. It’s simply not feasible to argue that Wright ‘forgot’ he launched Bitcoin a week after doing so.
The final piece of “core” evidence from this era is another email
in which Wright tells Kleiman, “I cannot do the Satoshi bit anymore. They no longer listen. I am better as a myth.” He ends the email by saying, “I hate this Dave, my pseudonym is more popular than I can ever hope to be.” This final email isn’t publicly available – we only have screenshots of it, just like the others – so it’s not practicable to verify its authenticity.
We have good reason to doubt this communication’s veracity because of the date it was sent. Wright sent the email five months after Satoshi disappeared (in September 2011), which doesn’t make sense to many.
Let’s momentarily assume Wright is Satoshi. Would Wright tell Mike Hearn he was leaving Bitcoin in April 2011, hand over the project leadership to Gavin Andresen, but not bother to inform Dave Kleiman, with whom he supposedly developed Bitcoin, for another five months? Moreover, if Kleiman really was involved in Bitcoin’s development, he would surely know that Satoshi left the project months before. Would Wright really have to tell him five months after the fact?
Thus far, the evidence for and against Wright’s claim to be Satoshi consists of an unverified email between himself and Dave Kleiman dated six months before the whitepaper release, his presence on the same mailing lists as Satoshi, his legal and academic qualifications, his professional experience, a blog post, an unverified email from 2011, and a trust agreement between Wright and Kleiman.
The only defense Wright has ever offered
for the blog posts being backdated is that he deliberately backdated them himself in order to “ throw Wired,” the news site which outed him in 2015.
Extract from a Reddit thread in which Wright admits he backdated the blog posts.
If Wright is indeed lying, however, a new question arises: why is he lying? Why would Craig Wright (or anyone for that matter) stake their personal and professional reputation on a false claim to have invented Bitcoin? After all, if the real Satoshi suddenly revealed himself, Wright’s credibility would be ruined beyond repair.
Who or what could have convinced Wright to say he’s Satoshi Nakamoto when there’s an absence of reputable evidence that he is?
8: The Gambling Association
Before he and Lynn moved to the Port Macquarie farm, Craig Wright spent considerable time working for big gambling companies. He claims to have designed the digital architecture for Australia’s first online casino, Lasseter’s Online,
and to have worked with the gambling arm of Playboy.
Lasseter’s Online Casino.
Of the three companies Craig Wright launched from the farm in 2009, two had strong ties to the gambling industry. These were ‘Information Defense Pty Ltd,’ which provided code for online casinos and sports betting firms; and ‘Integyrs Pty Ltd,’ a risk modeling company which analyzed code for at least one “major multinational gaming company.”
Wright has released only a handful of emails from this period when he was supposedly developing Bitcoin, which is a bit perplexing. Some have suggested Wright simply wants his claims to remain unprovable, and therefore unfalsifiable (*see Russell's Teapot
); others believe he was involved in some shady business at the same time and would risk exposing himself to legal problems if he released any emails.
Stefan Matthews, an ex-colleague-turned-investor of Wright’s, told Andrew O’Hagan
that most of Wright’s emails and documents from this era contained “chatter” about (and plausibly evidence of) illegal online gambling work Wright and Kleiman did in Costa Rica. Matthews said the money they earned from the work kickstarted their Bitcoin mining operation.
Andrew O’Hagan, who shadowed Wright for a year as research for his piece The Satoshi Affair, published in the London Book Review.
is certainly plausible, but like most of the preceding evidence, it falls into the category of “evidence of evidence,” or “claims of evidence,” which of course doesn’t count as evidence in and of itself. Even if we took Matthews’ claim as gospel, Wright would still need to provide the emails themselves - and not just screenshots of them, which he did for the previous bundle of emails.
What Matthews’ testimony does, however, is paint us a picture of what Craig Wright’s business operations really looked like. He divulged, for instance, a meeting Wright once had with Ross Ulbricht at a private members club in Sydney.
Ross Ulbricht, Silk Road Founder.
Ulbricht, who once upon a time went by Dread Pirate Roberts, is best known for founding the Silk Road
, an infamous online black market that facilitated the sale of guns, drugs and all manner of other illicit merchandise, often in exchange for Bitcoin. As yet, nobody has fully explained why Craig Wright secretly met with a man who was at the time one of the world’s most wanted criminals.
Given the Silk Road helped get Bitcoin off the ground (albeit while irreparably damaging its reputation), it’s possible that the pair got together to talk about Bitcoin, but there’s no evidence of that as yet.
There is evidence, however, that Wright’s gambling work links him with Bitcoin in another way: through the early Bitcoin code itself, which included several lines of GUI code for a poker client.
However, Satoshi never published the original Bitcoin code
himself, which meant that nobody had a copy of it besides him and Hal Finney, an American software developer.
Finney was well known in the Cypherpunk community for having invented Reusable Proof-of-Work, which Satoshi later relied upon while developing Bitcoin. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2009, shortly after Bitcoin’s launch, which confined him to a wheelchair and meant he could only communicate using eye movements.
Hal Finney after his ALS diagnosis.
Despite his condition, Finney still monitored the Bitcointalk forums, where in 2012 he spotted a community member asking if anyone held a copy of Bitcoin’s original code. He responded
, “I recently found the 0.1 source code on one of my computers. I can send it if you want it, but I'm pretty severely disabled these days, so it may take me a while to respond.”
It took him a few days, but Finney somehow managed to upload the code
. It didn’t take the public long to notice that between lines 1573 and 1788, Satoshi wrote some GUI code for a poker game. He neglected to explain why he included it anywhere on the forums or in his private correspondence with other developers.
Satoshi must have had a reason to include the poker code, but we can only speculate on what that reason might be. It’s possible he worked for the gambling industry, or that he intended to launch some kind of Bitcoin casino at a later date. Whatever the reason for its inclusion, the fact it exists means we have to consider whether it links Bitcoin with Craig Wright.
It's important we don’t jump the gun here. That Satoshi wrote some poker code into Bitcoin is certainly intriguing, and it probably does count as circumstantial evidence that Wright could be one of the people behind Bitcoin. After all, none of the other people who could be Satoshi wrote software for the gambling industry.
However, just because some gambling-related code exists within the earliest Bitcoin version doesn’t prove that it was written by Craig Wright, or even that Wright had anything to do with Bitcoin. As with all of the foregoing evidence, Bitcoin’s poker code doesn’t substantiate Wright’s claims.
9: Wright Tries to Rebuild
During his three years on the farm in Australia, Craig Wright launched an impressive array of companies
(while also studying and teaching at Charles Sturt University).
In addition to the three
aforementioned companies (see section 5), Wright launched DeMorgan Ltd
(not to be confused with DeMorgan, which Wright sold to Michael Ryan a decade earlier), a holding company that controlled 16 other companies that Wright started during the same period, many of which operated in the crypto space; he served as executive VP for the Centre for Strategic Cyberspace & Security Science; and he was appointed vice president for the Whitehats Conference Asia Pacific region, as well as director of the Global Institute of Cyber Security’s Asia Pacific region.
At the same time, Wright also lectured on digital forensics at Charles Sturt University, wrote numerous academic papers and contributed to various technical works on cyber security.
In 2013 he launched a company called Hotwire, whose “mission statement” contains so many trite clichés and platitudes that it’s genuinely difficult to explain what it actually does.
It’s unclear why Wright tried to launch so many companies at one time, especially while he was both teaching computer science and finishing a Ph.D. at a local university. He might have been compensating for the DeMorgan fiasco, which resulted in him being sentenced to a month in jail and having to pay heavy fines. He may also have been overreacting to being fired from BDO. Whatever the true reason, it’s clear that Wright was working all hours of the day and night, trying to get his businesses off the ground. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t work out the way he’d hoped.
Despite their best efforts, the Wrights found themselves in a perilous financial situation by 2011. Lynn was forced to declare bankruptcy (the reasons why aren’t public), which strongly suggests that Wright wasn’t in a position to bail her out. As such, it’s likely his businesses weren’t making enough cash.
What Wright badly needed was investors to invest in his companies to help get them off the ground. But he didn’t have a lot of people whom he could count on for help.
10: Kleiman Passes Away
One of the few people who could have helped Wright climb out of his financial hole was Dave Kleiman, the Florida-based cybersecurity expert with whom Wright worked on several projects.
Dave Kleiman’s NASA ID card.
By March 2013, Kleiman had spent 850 consecutive days in hospital and was fed up. Against his doctor's orders, he checked himself out of the hospital and went home. Unfortunately, his MRSA infection - for which he was being treated in hospital – progressed faster. He died as a result of the infection on April 26
, a month after leaving hospital.
Kleiman’s colleagues and friends were informed of his death by Patrick Paige and Carter Conrad
, with whom he had worked and managed Computer Forensics LLC in Palm Beach. Before launching the business, Paige had been Kleiman’s training officer at the Palm Beach County Sherrif’s Office.
Patrick Paige LinkedIn profile.
“Dave died in his home in Palm Beach Gardens,” they wrote in an email on April 30th, “of, what is being told to us, natural causes.” Since this email was sent, police reports were seen by Gizmodo which told a different story. The tech site reported
that Kleiman’s body was found “decomposing and surrounded by empty alcohol bottles and a loaded handgun.” He had died penniless and in squalor, Gizmodo said.
There is no “normal” way for someone to respond to the death of a friend or family member: we each respond to life ending in a unique way, and that way is rarely logical. Even so, Wright’s response to Dave Kleiman’s death was frankly bizarre.
Rather than sending flowers or writing a heartfelt eulogy, he published a YouTube video
in which, while weeping, he talked about how amazing Kleiman was as a person and as a digital security expert over a backdrop of Kleiman’s TV appearances.
The video only garnered a hundred or so views, but one of the people who saw it was Kursten Karr, Dave Kleiman’s ex-fiancée. She commented
under the video “craig this is kursten daves ex-fiancee, i would like to speak with you if you have the time. you can email me plz.” It’s not clear what they discussed.
Over the three days that followed Kleiman’s death and Conrad’s email, Wright published four blog posts about Bitcoin on his personal blog.
In A diatribe, Wright explored how money as a unit of exchange progressed from chickens and cows to salt, then to coins and paper notes, and finally to Bitcoin. And in the hoarding piece, Wright compared hoarding Bitcoin to hoarding land: his argument being that most people don’t consider land hoarding “undesirable,” so why should Bitcoin hoarding be considered so?
On the second day, April 28th, Wright shared another Bitcoin post, titled Why Bitcoins?
in which he outlines why Bitcoin’s fixed supply makes it superior to other currencies. And the next day he posted another article about Bitcoin, titled Is Bitcoin volatile?
in which he concluded that Bitcoin is “just as good as the dollar but getting better every day.”
Extract from ‘Is Bitcoin volatile?’
The blog posts feel partly exploratory, and like Wright is trying to promote Bitcoin. They don’t read like they were written by someone who deeply understood Bitcoin; rather, they feel as if the person who wrote them was just beginning to learn about how Bitcoin worked and felt very excited about how it could change the world. In other words, not like they were written by the person who invented Bitcoin.
We should consider here the question of why Wright became so interested in Bitcoin during the week following Dave Kleiman’s death. Could it have had anything to do with Kleiman’s ex-fiancee, who left a message on his video tribute to Dave?
Perhaps Wright knew (or at least strongly suspected) that Kleiman was involved in Bitcoin’s development, and felt that he might be able to profit from their relationship now that Dave had passed away.
The million-dollar question, however, is this: did Wright create Bitcoin with Dave Kleiman - or was this the moment that Craig Wright decided to become Satoshi Nakamoto?
Click here for part two, where we explore the years Wright was ‘outed’ as Satoshi Nakamoto.
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