Australian scientist claims bitcoin creation, but scepticism lingers

Australian computer scientist and entrepreneur Craig Steven Wright declared himself the creator of the digital currency bitcoin on Monday, offering what he claimed was technical proof of his role to the BBC, The Economist and GQ before posting on a blog.

"I'm not seeking publicity but want to set the record straight," Wright was quoted as saying by The Economist.

In a video statement for the BBC, Wright admitted to being Satoshi Nakamoto - the pseudonym linked to the cryptocurrency since it was created in 2008 - despite his earlier denials.

"I was the main part of it, but other people helped me," Wright said.

"I want to keep doing what I want to do," Write said in the BBC report. "I don't want money. I don't want fame. I don't want adoration. I just want to be left alone."

Wright provided evidence to the BBC that he started bitcoin by showing them programming code.

"These are the blocks used to send 10 bitcoins to Hal Finney in January [2009] as the first bitcoin transaction," Wright said.

But not everyone was convinced.

Wired magazine and Gizmodo had named Wright the suspected founder of bitcoin in December, and police raided his home soon after. But the revelation was called into question when a person or persons claiming to be Nakamoto denied that Wright was the creator.

Uncertainty surrounding Wright's claim led The Economist to hedge its bets in its article breaking the news.

"Our conclusion is that Mr Wright could well be Mr Nakamoto, but that important questions remain. Indeed, it may never be possible to establish beyond reasonable doubt who really created bitcoin."

Wright wrote on his blog that he was grateful to the people who had supported bitcoin and "taken my small contribution and nurtured it, enhanced it, breathed life into it."

A reclusive figure who lives in the leafy Sydney northern suburbs, Wright is estimated to be worth 450 million dollars, the BBC said.

There are an estimated 15.5 million bitcoins in circulation, and each one is currently worth 449 dollars. The currency operates without central authority or government backing.

Wright's revelation does not provide certainty about the future of bitcoin either. The currency has seen its exchange rate against the dollar fluctuate rapidly since its debut. Some governments have accepted it as a legal currency, while others have issued warnings.

Some of the discomfort about bitcoin stems from the fact that it is so uncontrollable and impossible to trace. It has become a favourite of websites that trade in illegal goods, adding to the mistrust some nation's harbour towards it.

In 2014, Mt Gox, a Tokyo-based exchange for the currency, reported a massive cybertheft of the bitcoins it held, amounting to about 6 per cent of the bitcoins then in circulation. Flexcoin, a Canadian-based exchange, saw its stocks of bitcoins emptied out in a virtual theft months later.

Bitcoins can only be created when computers are set to work cracking complicated equations, a process known as mining. This caps the number that can be available at any given point. Possession of the bitcoins is controlled by a computer code known as the blockchain, which records all transactions and is supposedly impossible to hack because any changes must be verified by multiple computers.

In December, when Wright was identified as the real Nakamoto, the Australian Tax Office swooped on his home and took away boxes of documents and computer hard drives.

Wright said at the time he was cooperating with the tax office and that lawyers were negotiating how much he would have to pay, the BBC reported.

Last update: Mon, 02/05/2016 - 18:51

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