The net worth of Mark Karpeles could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to a 200,000 stash of bitcoins. Those coins are the subject of ongoing legal proceedings in Japan which could see claimants receive less than $500 per coin for their losses. With over $1.4 billion worth of bitcoins on the line, the beleaguered Mt Gox boss has been the subject of fresh vitriol.
850,000 Bitcoins Stolen
Mt Gox: two words that many early bitcoin adopters still shudder to hear. One of bitcoin’s most notorious bête noires, Mark Karpeles has been persona non grata ever since the exchange collapsed in 2014. Since then, customers who lost their holdings in what was the world’s largest bitcoin exchange have been pursuing Karpeles and his failed company through the courts. Mt Gox famously shut down after conceding that 850,000 bitcoins had been stolen, but later announced the discovery of 200k of them in the manner that one might discover some spare change down the back of the sofa.
The ownership of these bitcoins is hotly disputed, with former customers of the exchange adamant that this stash belongs to them and insisting that they should be recompensed to the fullest extent possible. At present however those coins are under the control of the bankruptcy estate. With bitcoin having risen approximately 17 times in value since the Mt Gox days, Karpeles theoretically has enough funds to pay back every customer who lost out – but only to the original dollar value of their lost bitcoins.
Mark Karpeles told news.Bitcoin.com:
Creditors, when filing with the bankruptcy, had to convert any amount to JPY – which makes sense in a purely legal term, as it’d be impossible for anyone to proceed with a bankruptcy if debts had to be re-calculated all the time and could change over time. Today, the trustee still has to actually perform the sale of the 202000 BTC which are part of the MtGox estate, and until this sale happens, there is no way to tell how things will end. Nobody in this whole process could have predicted the way the price went, especially as its initial trend was downward, not upward.
He also added: “The bankruptcy also shouldn’t have lasted that long. Maybe we wouldn’t have been there if CoinLab hadn’t been trying to get a claim on $75M from MtGox while having failed to perform on every point required of them.”
Stash and Crash
The bumbling CEO of Mt Gox repeatedly lost thousands of bitcoins due to hacks, incompetence and deception during his tenure. In court, the Frenchman stated that it is common practice for bankrupt companies to sell off their assets at a large discount.
This raises the possibility of large tranches of the coins being dumped onto the market by liquidators. The prospect of this impacting market prices, however, seems unlikely. Such concerns were raised after the FBI seized 144,000 bitcoins from Silk Road boss Ross Ulbricht in 2013, at a time when the bitcoin markets had much less liquidity. The feds eventually auctioned off the coins, including one batch of 44,000 bitcoins, which made their way back into circulation without incident.
Living the Good Life
During his tenure at Mt Gox, Mark Karpeles grew accustomed to living the good life, splashing the cash on personal indulgences and vanity projects. Prosecutors assert that as much as $3 million of customer funds was lavished on servicing the lifestyle of the man once known as Magical Tux.
When the dust has settled after the long-running trial and creditors have been (partially) paid back, the remaining assets will likely go to the shareholders of Mt Gox. Its largest shareholder? Mark Karpeles. If the fallen CEO were to walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars, it would stick in the craw of Mt Gox’s customers, as if they needed another reason to hate the former Bitcoin Foundation member. Whatever the outcome of the Mt Gox trial, it appears the only real winner will be Mark Karpeles.
Do you think Mark Karpeles should be entitled to keep any of Mt Gox’ assets? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Mt Gox.
Need to know the price of bitcoin? Check this chart.