$2 Billion Lost In Mt. Gox Bitcoin Hack Can Be Recovered, Lawyer Claims (#GotBitcoin)
Moscow-based law firm ZP Legal claims to have identified Russian nationals who received bitcoin stolen in the 2014 hack of Mt Gox. $2 Billion Lost In Mt. Gox Bitcoin Hack Can Be Recovered, Lawyer Claims (#GotBitcoin)
Local law enforcement is investigating Alexander Vinnik, the alleged operator of the defunct exchange BTC-e.
ZP Legal says Mt Gox creditors who come forward as potential BTC-e victims may help Russian authorities establish a connection between the exchanges.
To cut a deal with law enforcement, those who benefited from the Mt Gox hack might offer to return funds to the exchange’s creditors, the law firm reckons.
While creditors of the defunct Mt Gox bitcoin exchange wait for the Japanese courts to resolve the fate of their money, a Moscow-based law firm is proposing a different solution.
According to Mt Gox creditors, ZP Legal contacted them earlier this year, offering an opportunity to recover almost a quarter of the missing 850,000 bitcoins stolen in the 2014 hack of the exchange. (The coins were worth more than $450 million at the time of the theft and $8.5 billion today.)
ZP Legal estimated 170,000 to 200,000 of these coins, currently worth $1.7 billion to $2 billion, can be recovered by taking legal action against Russian nationals who received the stolen money.
In return for its assistance, the law firm will charge creditors 50 to 75 percent of the recovered sum, as well as an hourly rate. However, ZP Legal says it will only accept payment in the event of a successful recovery.
Alexander Zheleznikov, the managing partner of ZP Legal (ZP stands for Zheleznikov and Partners), said he believed that some of the money stolen from Mt Gox might have ended up on another defunct crypto exchange, BTC-e. In fact, this longstanding claim has been investigated by former Mt Gox user Kim Nilsson and alleged in an order by the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California.
Following this order, the alleged operator of BTC-e, Russian national Alexander Vinnik, was arrested in July 2017 in Greece and is now facing extradition to the U.S., Russia or France to face trial over money laundering charges.
Zheleznikov believes the criminal case against Vinnik, which Russian authorities are also investigating, can be accelerated if Mt Gox creditors come forward as victims and help law enforcement establish a connection between Mt Gox, BTC-e, and BTC-e’s successor, the also-failed Russian exchange WEX.
“Our plan is to represent the Mt.Gox creditors and help them report to Russian law enforcement so that the investigators could establish the connection between the stolen funds from Mt Gox, the operations of BTC-e and WEX, using Vinnik’s case,” Zheleznikov said. He added:
“If our assumptions of those connections are correct, the [thieves] will ultimately come forward and plead guilty, and to reduce the punishment, they will offer to recover a part of the funds. If they don’t, they will be deemed guilty by law enforcement, and then there will be a chance to sue them for damages based on the criminal case.”
Zheleznikov said his firm reached out to lawyers representing the Mt Gox creditors, and later the creditors themselves, with the help of the Russian embassy in Tokyo. (The embassy did not respond to a request for comment.)
Andy Pag, the founder and former coordinator of the largest group of creditors, Mt. Gox Legal (MGL), said he was first contacted by the firm on Feb. 22, soon after ZP engaged with the Japanese lawyers working on the Mt Gox case.
“Lawyers for ZP held meetings in Tokyo with the creditors, and separately with the Mt. Gox Legal (MGL) insolvency lawyers, MHM Japan, on Feb. 15, 2019. I was the coordinator of MGL at the time so MHM made the introduction,” said Pag, who stepped down from Mt. Gox Legal at the end of March
He Went On To Add:
“There was a long hiatus after that, but more recently they re-contacted me asking me to help them devise their process for verifying individuals are valid victims of the theft, and a process to reach those individuals.”
According to a creditors’ discussion on a closed forum, ZP Legal claimed to have recovered as much as $1 million of funds on behalf of an unnamed client of the Russian crypto exchange WEX.
Zheleznikov refused to discuss the sum with CoinDesk but confirmed his firm worked with two people whose money was frozen at WEX. ZP Legal started its own investigation and the police started a preliminary investigation, and soon some people reached out to the firm and offered to compensate the WEX users’ losses, he said.
The firm connected the two sides and the next thing Zheleznikov heard was the victims telling him that “the matter was resolved,” he told CoinDesk. He refused to name either of the people involved in that deal.
According to a document shared by Pag, ZP Legal told Mt Gox creditors that through a “close cooperation with law enforcement” it believed it could recover “up to 170,000 – 200,000 BTC.”
At the same time, the firm admitted it doesn’t know the identities of all people involved in the theft — it will be up to law enforcement to find the culprits. Speaking to CoinDesk, Zheleznikov said the amount is an estimate based on the number of creditors ZP hopes to take on as clients.
Zheleznikov stressed that his clients can expect to receive not bitcoins themselves but their fiat value now.
“I don’t promise to recover bitcoins,” Zheleznikov told CoinDesk. “Only those funds will be recovered that a court will be able to forfeit.”
In the document Pag shared with the creditors, ZP describes how the loss will be calculated.
“If you held a balance on Mt Gox of say 100 BTC on the day it closed, to calculate your Russian police claim you must convert this to hard currency based on the current rate, for instance $10,000/[BTC] means your claim will be $1,000,000, in Roubles,” the document says.
A potential problem with this approach is that digital assets have no legal status in Russia at the moment, as in many other jurisdictions, and there is no clear methodology for valuing cryptocurrency. Zheleznikov admits that his firm will be acting in the absence of settled practices.
“We’re not sure [we will be able to convince the police to trust our estimates], we’re entering a grey zone where nobody has ever gone before. We’re not promising anything — we assume that we have certain legal skills and there are some existing laws, and we hope to leverage it all,” Zheleznikov said.
He admitted there might be “years of the legal fight, refusals from the police and legal practice formation” ahead.
While not widely known in the Russian crypto space, Zheleznikov has a remarkable track record as an attorney for a number of cases making waves in Russia in recent years.
In particular, since 2014, Zheleznikov has been defending the Russian neo-Nazi Maxim Martsinkevich, nicknamed “Tesak” (the Hatchet), who is serving a 10-year term in Russian prison for assaulting people he and his associates believed to be drug pushers.
Zheleznikov has also defended popular Russian journalist Anton Krasovsky and oligarch Konstantin Malofeev who is believed to be a sponsor of the separatist forces that confronted the Ukrainian army on the South East of Ukraine in 2014.
Mt Gox disclosed the theft of approximately 850,000 bitcoin (worth more than $450 million at the time) in February 2014. The exchange suspended trading, filed for bankruptcy protection and began liquidation proceedings.
According to security firm WizSec, most, if not all, of the missing bitcoin were stolen from the exchange’s online, or hot, wallet between 2011 and 2014.
The exchange transitioned from bankruptcy proceedings to civil rehabilitation, a debtor-friendly form of corporate restructuring, last year, meaning creditors will receive bitcoin instead of a fiat sum.
However, due to a large number of claims and other ongoing legal issues, it is unclear when these funds will be returned. A deadline for filing a civil rehabilitation plan was postponed in April by Mt Gox’s trustee, Nobuaki Kobayashi, and no plan will be filed before the end of October.
Mt. Gox Bitcoins Stay Put: Claims Deadline Pushed Back To Spring 2020
The trustee in charge of refunding users who lost money in the implosion of Bitcoin (BTC) exchange Mt. Gox has again extended the submission deadline for claims.
In a statement released on Oct. 28, Nobuaki Kobayashi said that the high volume of problematic requests for money meant that a five-month extension was inevitable.
New Claims Deadline March 31, 2020
In a statement released on Oct. 28, Nobuaki Kobayashi said that the high volume of problematic requests for money meant that a five-month extension was inevitable.
Kobayashi confirmed the plan just one day before the current deadline arrived. That, too, was the result of an extension which the trustee agreed in April.
“A large amount of rehabilitation claims that the Rehabilitation Trustee fully or partially disapproved remains undetermined for being subject to claim assessment procedures and appeals against a decision on a petition for claim assessment,” he explained.
Kobayashi’s Statement Concluded:
“In light of the foregoing, the Rehabilitation Trustee filed a motion to seek an extension of the submission deadline of a rehabilitation plan at the Tokyo District Court, and, on October 25, 2019, the Tokyo District Court issued an order to extend the deadline for a rehabilitation plan to March 31, 2020.”
Almost Six Years Since Collapse
As Cointelegraph reported, a total of around 24,000 people were implicated in the Mt. Gox debacle. The exchange collapsed in early 2014, with a lengthy legal process still to award any refunds. Around 850,000 BTC (at the time worth $460 million) disappeared from its books.
The cryptocurrency industry is also keenly eyeing another exchange’s demise this year. Canada’s QuadrigaCX, the founder of which suddenly died in late 2018, still owes around $145 million to its 115,000 creditors.
The founder’s widow handed over $9 million in assets last month.
Bitcoin Price ‘Bearish Alert’ As 140K BTC From Mt. Gox May Move For The First Time
The latest deadline in the Mt. Gox rehabilitation process may pave the way to unleash $2.6 billion in Bitcoin for sale.
Bitcoin (BTC) may see a fresh “bearish signal” in the coming days as the Mt. Gox saga enters its final and possibly expensive phase.
As noted by on-chain analytics resource CryptoQuant on Dec. 8, defunct exchange Mt. Gox’s payout deadline is just one week away.
Mt. Gox Rehabilitation Deadline Looms
After multiple delays, creditors of Mt. Gox who lost money in its implosion in 2014 are set to know when they will receive BTC on Dec. 15 — and the temptation to sell for profit may prove to be too great to avert a mass run on exchanges.
“Set Mt.Gox outflow alert. Manage your risk,” CryptoQuant CEO Ki Young Ju warned Twitter followers.
Mt. Gox was the best-known cryptocurrency exchange until it was hacked for funds that included 860,000 BTC. After years of legal tussles, a rehabilitation scheme will see roughly 140,000 BTC distributed to creditors.
Since Mt. Gox’s website went offline in February 2014, Bitcoin has mushroomed in value, meaning that the funds from the rehabilitation scheme are now worth $2.63 billion.
As CryptoQuant notes, that translates into a lot of potential selling pressure. With roughly 28,000 BTC mined each month, the haul equals around five months’ supply.
“It could be a $BTC bearish signal as supplying 150,000 BTC to the market…” part of another tweet reads.
Disrupting The Eerie Bitcoin Calm
The past week has been characterized by low activity on Bitcoin markets as BTC/USD enters a period of consolidation after rampant volatility.
Proponents are using the respite to double down on their positions, with MicroStrategy announcing a fundraising round for $400 million more BTC in its next purchase.
Other corporate buyers, including investment giant Grayscale, also continue amassing funds.
As Cointelegraph reported, aside from Mt. Gox, macro events are also set to influence Bitcoin price action this week.
Mt. Gox Trustee Files Draft Rehabilitation Plan
Mt. Gox is inching closer to refunding its users one day.
On Dec. 15, Mt. Gox’s trustee Nobuaki Kobayashi filed a draft rehabilitation plan to refund Mt. Gox users. According to an official announcement posted on Mt. Gox website, the Tokyo District Court and an examiner will review the draft rehabilitation plan and determine whether to proceed with the rehabilitation proceedings as part of the draft rehabilitation plan.
The move comes shortly after Kobayashi received another approval to extend the deadline for submitting a rehabilitation plan in October 2020. As reported, the Tokyo District Court extended the deadline until Dec. 15, 2020. Kobayashi previously obtained a number of similar deadline extensions in March 2020 and April 2019.
Launched in 2010, Mt. Gox suffered the largest cryptocurrency hack in history. As reported, the exchange lost a total of 1.35 million Bitcoin (BTC) in two hacks in 2011 and 2014.
Mt. Gox customers have still not received compensation for their stolen funds. Kobayashi, a Japanese lawyer who was appointed to oversee the civil reimbursement process, reportedly has 150,000 BTC to repay users. However, the refunds have been postponed multiple times.
Defunct Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox is finally moving forward with its user rehabilitation plan after facing major hacks in 2011 and 2014.
Some other defunct crypto exchanges have also been moving forward with reimbursement plans recently. On Dec. 9, the liquidator of now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange Cryptopia started the claims process to reimburse creditors following a 2019 hack.
Bitcoin Whales Plan To Buy BTC Higher As Fresh Mt. Gox Payouts Add To Market Fear
Whales reposition their BTC buy bids higher as price action appears to bore those seeking a continuation of the Bitcoin bull market.
Bitcoin (BTC) showed no sign of tackling $60,000 resistance on Nov. 23 as the specter of defunct exchange Mt. Gox returned to haunt price action.
Mt. Gox Makes Waves With Payouts Yet To Come
Data from Cointelegraph Markets Pro and TradingView showed BTC/USD again reversing progress, which had produced a local high above $59,500 Monday.
The return toward $55,000 came as the latest events in the Mt. Gox rehabilitation process, originally published Nov. 16, began to hit the media.
In an announcement, trustee Nobuaki Kobayashi confirmed that the plans had now become “final and binding,” with the implication that the 141,000 BTC under custody would soon be distributed.
“The Rehabilitation Trustee will then make repayments to rehabilitation creditors holding allowed rehabilitation claims in accordance with the Rehabilitation Plan,” it states.
“An announcement will be made to rehabilitation creditors on the details of the specific timing, procedures, and amount of such repayments.”
While the details of the Mt. Gox conclusion have long been known, already shaky markets appeared to double down on their stance Tuesday, with sentiment taking a further beating.
According to the Crypto Fear & Greed Index, what was a “neutral” sentiment just a day ago is now firmly back in “fear” territory, the gauge measuring 33/100 at the time of writing.
Mt. Gox Makes Waves With Payouts Yet To Comes
Zooming out, meanwhile, popular trader and analyst Rekt Capital noted that on monthly timeframes, Bitcoin was behaving entirely reasonably.
After October’s highest-ever monthly close, a retest of a previous 2021 monthly support level is now continuing.
#BTC is still retesting this Monthly level as support
Monthly retest is still intact, despite the downside volatility
That said, it is worth repeating that BTC could still easily see-saw like this for the remainder of the month
— Rekt Capital (@rektcapital) November 22, 2021
In common with previous downside periods, meanwhile, large-volume investors on exchanges appeared to be betting on and even trying to hasten new gains.
As noted by Charles Edwards, CEO of asset manager Capriole, buyer support levels are creeping higher as Bitcoin fails to drop to targets.
“Bitfinex whales once again walking up their bids,” he revealed alongside a chart from the platform showing $54,000 as a new focus instead of $50,000.
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