Cryptocurrency watchers were stirred into a frenzy yesterday after both Wired and Gizmodo claimed to unmask the creator behind Bitcoin, in the form of an eccentric Australian entrepreneur, Dr. Craig Steven Wright.
Both publications were the beneficiaries of leaked documents that, if genuine, seem highly suggestive of the fact that Wright created the leading cryptography-derived payment mechanism as the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto.
While their backstories differ slightly, both the Gizmodo and Wired investigations hinged upon documentation seemingly procured from the same source, who may have contacted the New York Times with an opportunity to cover the story as well.
This scattershot approach by the central figure in the tale has led some to speculate that the leaker is in fact Dr. Wright himself — a notion seemingly reinforced by Wired’s contention that several posts on Dr. Wright’s blog had been retroactively edited to leave the impression that he was cognizant of Bitcoin even before its public disclosure.
So why would Dr. Wright leak his own involvement in a project whose credit-taking he has spent the past six years actively avoiding? (Assuming he does, in fact, turn out to be the right suspect: Critics already have their doubts.)
While the answer to that question is far from clear at this juncture, it may have something to do with the Australian Taxation Office’s interest in his affairs: Just hours after the two reports were published, that agency conducted raids on Dr. Wright’s last known residence as well as at least one of his business offices (he was not reportedly present at either venue at the time).
Furthermore, the ATO investigation figured centrally into the leaks received by both publications, including an alleged transcript of a meeting between Dr. Wright, his attorney, and an ATO agent in which he casually admits his role as the project’s secretive progenitor.
Because Bitcoin relies on the transparency of the blockchain record — all transactions, while anonymous, are public knowledge — it is well-known that whoever started the project currently holds in excess of one million Bitcoins, mined at a time when the resources required to do so were far less imposing than they are today. Since a 2014 Australian ruling classified Bitcoins as assets instead of currency, Dr. Wright would be responsible for the tax burden on a stockpile that is currently worth north of $400 million.
So, did Dr. Wright — knowing that the ATO had him in its sights — manipulate these publications as a way to both disrupt the tax investigation (forcing a preemptive raid) while also cultivating the support of a Satoshi Nakamoto-crazed Bitcoin community? Right now that seems to be the only theory which accounts for the many peculiarities in this tale, although until we hear Dr. Wright’s own perspective on recent events, this is very much still a story shrouded in mystery.
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