For almost a year, the story with one of Canada's largest cryptocurrency exchanges, Quadriga CX, has been going on. In early 2019, the company announced the death of the head of the company — 30-year-old Gerald Cotten. She added that only he knew the passwords and keys to the wallets where tens of thousands of users ' bitcoins are stored. This was ostensibly his security measure, but because of this, Quadriga CX cannot refund customers.
Such an unusual situation, as well as mysterious details from the past and the circumstances of Cotten's death, have led to theories that the head of the exchange actually fabricated his death to hide with users ' cryptocurrency-that's $ 160 million.
By December 2019, suspicions had reached such a stage that Quadriga CX depositors demanded the exhumation of the body. All to make sure that Gerald Cotten is really dead and not hiding with their bitcoins.
One person for all passwords
Cotten's death was announced in January 2019, with 9 December 2018 as the date of death. According to Quadriga CX, the CEO of the company died from complications of Crohn's disease on the way to the opening of an orphanage in India. And his death was not the only tragedy-the exchange's customers learned that only he had access to their bitcoins.
We are talking about "cold" wallets without access to the Internet, which are considered one of the most reliable means to store cryptocurrency. Passwords from them and encryption keys knew only Cotten, according to Quadriga CX, as he wanted to ensure maximum security.
As a result, the cryptocurrency savings of more than 75 thousand people were in limbo. That's about $ 160 million.
The wife of the deceased Jennifer Cotten said she tried to find recovery codes, but "repeated intensified searches" came to nothing. "My husband did most of his business from his encrypted laptop, but I don't know the password," she said. According to Jennifer, over the hacking of the laptop fought several experts and one managed to crack email. But the messages there are supposedly not just encrypted, but self-destruct.
On January 28, the Quadriga CX website went offline, and representatives of the company almost stopped communicating with customers. Then there was speculation on Reddit: what if Gerald Cotten faked his death to appropriate the money for himself? And together with journalists, they began their investigation.
Reasons for doubt
The doubts of Quadriga CX customers can be understood: there are many suspicious factors in the story. It all started with the cause of death-Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that rarely ends in death.
According to Reddit users, Cotten "died extremely well" in India, where there are more opportunities to fake a death than in Canada. The wife of the head of Quadriga CX published the death certificate as evidence, but she was no longer believed.
Further-more. Cotten had changed his will two weeks before his trip to India, leaving his wife a large inheritance. Among the items in the will: two houses in different regions of Canada, two cars, a yacht and a small Cessna 400 plane. Cotten's total assets are nearly $ 10 million.
At the same time, Quadriga CX experienced financial problems throughout 2018. The crypto exchange entered the market in 2013 and became one of the local leaders, but since the beginning of 2018 it has been "at war" with The canadian Imperial Bank (CIBC), which froze $ 22 million without an established owner. At the same time, customers began to complain that they could not access the cryptocurrency.
According to the publication Decrypt, the popularity of the platform gradually fell, and Cotten blamed the traditional banking system of Canada, which put a spoke in the wheels of the cryptocurrency community. In early December, representatives of Quadriga CX announced that the problems with CIBC were solved-a few days before the death of the head of the company.
In February, the Nova Scotia Supreme court appointed audit firm Ernst & Young to review all financial transactions of the cryptocurrency exchange. The Agency's investigation revealed "significant problems and irregularities" in the management of the Quadriga CX.
According to experts Ernst & Young, those encrypted" cold " wallets were not 160 million dollars, but several hundred thousand. Presumably, Cotten transferred large amounts of client deposits to his personal accounts, hidden behind pseudonyms.
The widow Cotten disavowed her husband's actions, saying she knew nothing about it. Auditors managed to track down and return a small part of the funds to customers, another part was paid by Jennifer Cotten. But thousands of crypto investors were still left without their deposits. Quadriga CX started the procedure of bankruptcy.
Skeletons in the closet
The most active clients of the cryptocurrency exchange, confident that Cotten is still alive, organized an investigative Telegram chat "Quadriga Uncovered". The number of participants in the chat numbered 500 people, periodically there were journalists and even FBI agents who were also interested in the story. In total, according to media reports, four different services from different countries are involved in the case.
Internet detectives began to study Cotten's youth and discovered that as early as 2003 He was an active user of the TalkGold forum, where "high-yield investment projects"were shared and discussed. Most of them are classic financial pyramids. Cotten supposedly launched at least a few similar projects, promoting them on the forum. He was 15 years old.
At some point, Cotten met Michael Patrin, with whom They later founded Quadriga CX. Representatives of the canadian cryptocurrency industry recalled that Patrin appeared in the community suddenly: "It quickly became clear that he is not who he claims to be. Sometimes he introduced himself as Michael from India, sometimes as Michael from Pakistan, sometimes as Michael from Italy. But he knew what he was doing."
Canadian media claim that Michael Patrin is the pseudonym of Omar Danani, and he used to live in California. Danani was found guilty of fraud and money laundering, he spent 18 months in prison. He was linked to the website Shadowcrew, where stolen credit cards and Bank card numbers were traded.
In 2007, Omar was released, after which he allegedly moved to Canada and changed his name. Initially he was Omar Patrin, and a year later he became Michael Patrin. The co-founder of Quadriga CX has denied this information several times.
To dig and prove
The story of the cryptocurrency exchange has been going on for more than a year. Quadriga CX users have filed a class action lawsuit against the platform, but it is already considered bankrupt. During this time, journalists and Internet detectives have formulated three main versions of what could happen to 160 million dollars in cryptocurrency.
Cotten did die, but his death was used to hide the fact that the Quadriga CX had no money. The company was experiencing financial difficulties, the head of the company transferred money to himself, and the startup itself could "burn out" on unsuccessful cryptocurrency trading. Perhaps, after Cotten's death, the management decided that it was possible to cover their tracks with a story about passwords from wallets;
Quadriga CX-originally a fraudulent firm through which Cotten and Omar Danani (aka Michael Patrin) engaged in money laundering. This is indicated by details from the past of both co founders of the company;
The failure of the Quadriga CX is simply the result of terrible management of the company. As the business grew, Cotten failed. There are approximately 215 cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. 36 exchanges closed for various reasons. Perhaps the story of Quadriga CX is just another failure in the cryptocurrency market.
Many interlocutors of canadian journalists from employees of cryptocurrency companies, as well as doctors specializing in Crohn's disease, believe that Gerald Cotten died for real. But if so, depositors are unlikely to get their money and bitcoins back. So it's probably easier for them to believe in a conspiracy.
In December 2019, users of the Quadriga CX demanded that Cotten's body be exhumed. Law firm Miller Thomson, representing the interests of investors, justified this "questionable circumstances" of the death of the head of the company. Cotten's widow and former Quadriga CX management oppose the grave opening. The decision on exhumation will be made by the spring of 2020
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