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High Court holds that computer scientist’s claims to be inventor of Bitcoin are dishonest

For a number of years, computer scientist Craig Wright has professed to be the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin.  Based on these claims, Dr Wright had initiated numerous proceedings in England and Wales and across the world, including libel claims against people who publicly declared that he was not Satoshi (for instance, Wright v Ver [2020] EWCA Civ 672, which was struck out on jurisdictional grounds) and proceedings against various developers for access to Bitcoin that Dr Wright’s company, Tulip Trading Trust (“TTL”) allegedly owned (the “TTL Claim”).

In the TTL claim, Dr Wright sued 16 parties for alleged breach of fiduciary duties as Bitcoin developers where Dr Wright asserted that he had lost access to billions of pounds worth of Bitcoin and that the Defendants owed a fiduciary duty to assist him in recovering access to it.  14 Defendants actively defended the TTL Claim on the basis that TTL did not in fact own the Bitcoin in question and that the developers owed no such fiduciary duty.  The claim was intially struck out in 2022 after a successful application to set aside an order for service of proceedings outside the jurisdiction.  However, in 2023, the Court of Appeal reinstated the claim (Tulip Trading Limited v. van der Laan & Ors [2023] EWCA Civ 83) finding that there was a serious issue to be tried, namely the potential existence of fiduciary duties by the defendant developers.  There was to be a preliminary issue trial, in early 2025, where the Court was to determine whether inter alia TTL owned the Bitcoin in question, whether TTL commenced proceedings in the knowledge that it did not own the Bitcoin and whether the TTL claim was fraudulent or an abuse of process.

Whilst the TTL Claim was ongoing, several interested parties formed the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (“COPA”) to seek a declaration from the High Court that Dr Wright was not Satoshi Nakamoto (the “COPA trial”).  During the COPA trial, the Court was presented with documentation, from Dr Wright, that he asserted proved that he was Satoshi.  COPA attacked the authenticity of the documents and following six weeks of evidence in March 2024, the Court found that Dr Wright was not Satoshi.  In a 231-page Judgment (Crypto Open Patent Alliance -v- Craig Wright [2024] EWHC 1198 (Ch)), Mr Justice Mellor elaborated on his conclusions (that Dr Wright was not Satoshi) and found that Dr Wright had forged numerous documents in furtherance of his claim to be Satoshi.  In making this finding, Mellor J remarked 'Dr Wright presents himself as an extremely clever person…However , in my judgment, he is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. In both his written evidence and in days of oral evidence under cross-examination, I am entirely satisfied that Dr Wright lied to the court extensively and repeatedly.'  The judge noted that if Dr Wright was genuinely Satoshi he would have had little difficulty in proving the fact.

Following the Court’s damning findings, and close to the deadline for disclosure of documents, TTL discontinued the TTL Claim ending what had been a prolonged and expensive piece of litigation that, together with the COPA trial, had enthralled the cryptocurrency community.

Naturally, the 14 defendants who actively defended the TTL Claim have sought to recover their costs on the indemnity basis from TTL and Dr Wright, and, Mr Justice Mellor is now considering various applications from COPA and parties in related litigation concerning injunctive relief against Dr Wright (including an order that Dr Wright is not to hold himself out as being Satoshi), and whether Dr Wright should be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions due to the findings against him that show that he lied whilst under oath.

Satoshi’s real identity remains under wraps for now, but one thing that can now be safely said (without fear of litigation), is that Dr Wright is not Satoshi.  Whilst this claim failed on the basis of the claimant’s dishonesty, the wider and far-reaching question of whether the developers of cryptocurrency owe cryptocurrency owners a fiduciary duty remains unanswered.  Were this question ever to be answered in the affirmative it could have profound consequences for cryptocurrency and decentralised finance.


The 14th Defendant in the TTL Claim Roger Ver was represented by Iain Wilson, Max Campbell, Tom Double and Vishalee Amin.


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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.