The unexpected death of the owner of Canada’s largest cryptocurrency exchange has left £145 million of cryptocurrency locked in a digital wallet to which he reportedly had the only password.
Gerald Cotten, who served as the chief executive of the QuadrigaCX exchange, died on December 9, 2018 in India due to complications relating to Crohn’s disease, according to Canadian court documents filed by the company.
The Vancouver-based exchange claimed in a blog post that Mr Cotten’s death means they are unable to pay customers around £41m in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that they’re owed, prompting various conspiracy theories surrounding the whereabouts of the funds.
Some customers have even questioned the death of Mr Cotten, taking to social media platforms to demand proof in the form of an obituary or death certificate. According to Coindesk, a death certificate was included in the list of court documents.
Mr Cotton’s wife, Jennifer Robertson, stated in an affidavit: “I do not know the password or recovery key. Despite repeated and dilligent searches, I have not been able to find them written down anywhere.”
New research also raises questions about the true state of QuadrigaCX’s cryptocurrency holdings, disputing claims made about the funds in the filings.
The funds were allegedly stored in so-called cold storage wallets, meaning they are not connected to the internet and accessible to only people who knew the private keys, or passwords.
This is standard practice for many cryptocurrency exchanges, as it helps to prevent hacking. However, other exchange operators say it is unusual for the keys to be held by just one person.