The trial of Mark Karpeles is finally to get underway next week regarding the missing 750,000 bitcoins, now worth nearly $2 billion, according to AFP.
The Frenchman is expected to plead not guilty according to his lawyer Kiichi Iino, who further said Karpeles was keeping calm as the trial gets underway.
“The charges (against Karpeles) only cover a subset of the issues which were happening at MtGox, so I don’t expect that we will find out most of the information we want to know,” Kolin Burges, a British investor who said he lost several hundred Bitcoins in the Mt Gox collapse, told AFP.
Karpeles was arrested back in August 2015 with the Japanese detaining him for nearly a year, until he was released on bail in 2016, awaiting the trial which is now to begin.
He presided over what back then was the biggest bitcoin exchange by far, handling around 80% of the trading volume, but the platform was always besieged by troubles.
A hack of MT Gox in 2011 gave bitcoin a reputation of being unsafe, with its rise in popularity in spring 2013 meeting MT Gox’s technical difficulties through DDoSing and inability to handle demand, leading to a price fall.
When bitcoin’s popularity soared again in November and December 2013, sending its price to an all time high of around $1,000, MT Gox failed to process bitcoin withdrawals, later announcing that due to a bug in bitcoin’s protocol, called transaction malleability, all their bitcoin had been hacked.
Researchers found only 2,000 bitcoins had been stolen through transaction malleability, with blockchain explorers further discovering MT Gox had 200,000 bitcoins it had not revealed.
They later admitted to the 200,000 bitcoins, which are still being held by the trustee awaiting distribution to creditors, but what happened to the rest remains unknown.
Their internal database was leaked, with analysis showing the loss may have been incurred in 2011, but the data was patchy, so its not clear whether it was a one-off theft or a slow bleed of bitcoins.
Karpeles himself has faced allegations of embezzlement, with some suggesting he was living a lavish lifestyle, renting an $11,000-a-month penthouse, with some proposing he might have slowly spent the bitcoins himself.
After now more than three years, little light has been shed on the events. A blockchain analysis company seemingly claimed to have found the missing coins, but later told trustnodes they “did not claim to know where the money is today only where it went.”
The trial might, perhaps, reveal in more detail what exactly happened during the three or four years prior to MT Gox’s demise, not least because the prosecution will have to thoroughly present their case.
They will probably focus on somewhat easier aspects, such as proving he did not keep customer’s deposits into separate accounts, but they may go into more detail, especially as MT Gox’s bank accounts should have left a clear money trail.
The complexity suggests it will probably go for months, with MT Gox creditors unlikely to receive their funds before the end of the trial.
Once the trustee does distribute the funds, MT Gox creditors may receive their full investment, perhaps even with profits, as bitcoin’s price rise has now made MT Gox technically solvent.