The civil suit brought by Ira Kleiman against Dr. Craig Wright hinges on the latter’s ownership of the largest untouched stash of BTC tokens in existence. The suit, which was launched nearly four years ago, finally got underway in the Satoshi trial in Florida on November 1 and is expected to conclude sometime around the Thanksgiving holiday later this month.
Ira has alleged that his late brother Dave was Wright’s partner in many endeavors, including the creation of Bitcoin, and thus Dave’s estate has a claim on the 1.1 million BTC tokens Wright is said to possess. Wright, the real-world figure behind the Satoshi Nakamoto pseudonym credited with authoring the Bitcoin white paper in 2008, maintains that while Dave helped him edit the white paper, Dave didn’t play any other significant role in Bitcoin’s development.
Given the length of time it’s taken to come to trial, the legal costs for both parties will be enormous, but this shouldn’t pose a problem for the defendant (assuming Wright has access to the roughly $65 billion or so that the 1.1million BTC are currently worth). Ira has no such reserves and is thus relying on ‘litigation financing assistance’ provided by an offshoot of third-party litigation funding outfit Parabellum Capital.
Preparing for war
As previously documented on this site, Parabellum tends to raise capital on an as-needed basis but the individual sources of this capital aren’t a matter of public record. It’s also a fact that Ira was emailing undisclosed parties with “an interest in the Bitcoin space” as far back as 2016, promising them “a percentage of a successful judgment” in exchange for funds that would allow Ira to pursue his claim against Wright.
There’s no getting blood from a stone, so the parties that anted up to fund Parabellum’s pursuit of Wright’s billions would have to believe that Wright indeed has access to the 1.1 million BTC. At first glance, that would seem to eliminate many of the more notable individuals/entities with ‘an interest in the Bitcoin space,’ as they’ve kept up a constant drumbeat of Wright-bashing since he was ‘outed’ as Satoshi (with the alleged help of Ira) in Wired and Gizmodo in December 2015.
Or does it? Deep down, many of the loudest members of the Wright-is-Wrong camp know full well that Wright is Satoshi but have maintained their public façade to prevent further acceptance of Wright and the BSV blockchain protocol. BSV’s focus on infinitely scaling blocks, low transaction fees and high functionality poses an existential threat to the function-free ‘store of value’ protocols currently out there, particularly BTC.
Wright’s opponents may have believed that taking him to court would distract him from further developing BSV or drive him into bankruptcy if he failed to find his own financial support. If that failed, at the very least the anti-Wright financial backers might still emerge sitting pretty by claiming an ill-gotten slice of the BTC that Wright mined in Bitcoin’s early days, when few were taking his creation seriously.
The usual suspects
Blockstream is a leading candidate to be a contributor to Parabellum’s ‘Get Craig’ fund. The company’s ‘Layer 2’ products for BTC whales (Liquid) and minnows (Lightning) are only needed because the BTC protocol has been hobbled to the point of futility. BSV can do everything Liquid/Lightning can do but does it on-chain, without the need for Blockstream imposing proprietary control over digital commerce.
Blockstream is a member of the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA), a group that sued Wright in the U.K. High Court last April over his copyright claim on the Bitcoin white paper. Many of the suspects on this list are COPA members, which was one of the principal backers of Blockstream’s Series B financing round in August. It appears COPA has been formed to solely antagonize Wright over his copyright claim on the Bitcoin white paper—see their lone tweet back in April on the matter since they announced they are suing Wright.
iFinex, which operates the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange and the Tether (USDT) stablecoin, has spent too much time and effort pumping up BTC’s value to see it undone by BSV achieving massive enterprise adoption. The resulting decline in BTC value could result in an effective bank run as exchanges and their market makers rushed to redeem their USDT for actual cash (reserves that Tether simply doesn’t possess).
Bitfinex was not among the exchanges that delisted BSV in a seemingly coordinated campaign aimed at diminishing Wright’s influence. In January, iFinex CTO Paolo Ardoino tweeted that the exchange “has leveraged traders on BSV. We can’t put our own users at risk with a rushy [sic] decision.”
Those BSV-based leveraged traders on Bitfinex consistently have a 9-1 short interest, which many have interpreted as a coordinated effort to suppress the value of the BSV token. Suspicion is rampant that Tether’s overactive money printer is assisting this downward pressure, particularly given that Ardoino has admitted that iFinex provided “300k+ in funding” to individuals with whom Wright is engaged in legal matters.
Another COPA member is MicroStrategy, which has been effectively transformed into a BTC-based exchange-traded fund by founder Michael Saylor, who borrowed billions of dollars to acquire over 114k BTC tokens. Saylor, who claimed last week that BTC’s value is “going up forever,” has explicitly compared BTC to real estate against which he can borrow actual money to accomplish real-world goals that BTC is incapable of performing. A BSV token that can be used for both everyday transactions and more complex functions would be the equivalent of Saylor finding his BTC real estate was built on toxic waste dumps and Indian burial grounds.
Digital Currency Group, the financial giant founded by Barry Silbert that controls the CoinDesk crypto news site and holds stakes in countless other BTC-based ventures (including Blockstream), stands staunchly opposed to anything that might challenge its current dominance of BTC’s public infrastructure.
The suspects aren’t limited to the BTC camp. Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin has been among Wright’s most vocal critics, presumably because BSV has exposed the lie behind Ethereum’s self-proclaimed ‘world computer’ ethos. Too many developers who launched products on Ethereum found that it couldn’t scale to handle the required transaction volume, while the transactions Ethereum could handle came saddled with onerous fees.
In June, Buterin appeared on Lex Fridman’s podcast, in which Buterin called Wright a troll and a scammer. This is typical for Buterin, who routinely hurls personal attacks at Wright while largely avoiding discussing the relative merits of BSV vs. Ethereum. Perhaps this is because Buterin’s repeated promises to solve Ethereum’s scaling issues have yet to result in any material change, with each new proposal falling by the wayside once developers take a look under the technical hood. Gas fees on Ethereum are still going through the roof.
By contrast, Wright’s critics have been forced to eat their words as some of his claims regarding Bitcoin’s true capabilities—massive on-chain scaling is possible, Bitcoin is Turing complete—were ridiculed at the time only to be later proven accurate. Wright has also demonstrated insights into Bitcoin’s design that have long puzzled others—such as why he used a double hash—that buttress his claim to being Satoshi and leave critics such as Buterin looking even more desperate.
For services rendered
Ira Kleiman raised a lot of eyebrows when he was a no-show on the second day of his lawyers making their case. By some accounts, Ira’s eventual appearance on the stand showed him seemingly disinterested in the trial process, a strange approach given the stakes. That is, unless Ira’s already signed away most or even all of his stake in the verdict in exchange for an upfront payment, and now views his role simply as a mundane task he’s obligated to perform.
The same can’t be said for those who put money into seeing Ira prevail and Wright laid low. Their names won’t appear on the docket but they have been the real plaintiffs from the start of this legal charade. Ira is just their beard, a useful idiot whose disinterest in his brother’s welfare while Dave was still alive was more than evident by the fact that the pair hadn’t seen each other for over three years when Dave’s body was discovered, despite living only a few miles apart.
This whole episode resembles Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, in which a group of individuals conspire to murder a fellow passenger with whom all of them share a secret connection. Detective Hercule Poirot, acting in a purely unofficial capacity, exposes them all as guilty, but the one police official on the scene—in a shocking dereliction of duty—ultimately decides to let them all go free. If there’s any justice in the world, they won’t get away with it this time.
Check out all of the CoinGeek special reports on the Kleiman v Wright YouTube playlist.