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Ex Mt Gox CEO Pours Cold Water on Exchange Reboot

Ex Mt Gox CEO Pours Cold Water on Exchange Reboot

Former CEO of the now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange Mt Gox Mark Karpeles has flatly refuted any attempts to restart operations of the exchange.

Comments regarding a restart were first floated by Brock Pierce, who claimed he could reboot the exchange and give better compensations to the traders affected by the exchange’s hack back in 2014 that saw a whopping BTC 850,000. The hack remains to this day the biggest single hack in terms of Bitcoin ever and the stolen amount is worth more than USD 3 billion at the latest exchange rate.

Following the hack, the exchange announced bankruptcy and slowly started the process to compensate the traders on its portal despite Bitcoin’s price increasing several times over. It reportedly had enough remaining deposits to compensate them but so far, the progress has been slow, although legal proceedings in Japan, where the exchange was based, have helped facilitate the compensation for claimants.

Pierce, the controversial crypto personality behind Blockchain Capital, and EOS Alliance, claimed recently that he would kickstart a GoxRising movement to get the exchange up and running again. Karpeles refuted this claim strongly and said that there is no agreement between Mt Gox and Pierce’s Sunlot Holding Company even though a process was started back in 2014. He said:

“The letter of intent is a proposal, which was supposed to result in an agreement within 45 days, on condition of approval by the court, the trustee and/or anyone the court appoints. As far as I know no agreement was reached within 45 days, nor did the court and the trustee approve such an agreement…”

Karpeles, along with other senior executives of Mt Gox, are still under scrutiny in courts on several counts including embezzlement of USD 3 million worth of funds from the exchange and manipulating the cash balance of the exchange. While he himself has pled not guilty, prosecutors are intent at getting a ten-year sentence for him from the court.

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Crypto Exchange QuadrigaCX Funds Trapped in Cold Wallet as Only Dead CEO Had Access

Crypto Exchange QuadrigaCX Funds Trapped in Cold Wallet As Only Dead CEO Had Access

Another colossal misfortune greets 115,000 crypto traders who had their funds trapped in the now insolvent crypto exchange QuadrigaCX as it has reported that it is unable to access about USD 190 million of funds stored in the cold storage as well as fiat drafts held in custody, according to a filing for bankruptcy with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court on 31 January.

QuadrigaCX’s misfortune began when the founder and CEO Gerald Cotten reportedly died from Crohn’s disease in early December 2018, but the exchange waited until early January to announce his passing.

It was common practice for Cotten to move funds from the hot wallet into the cold storage for security purposes, and it was his sole responsibility. However noble the act – protecting users from hackers, – his passing has left the crypto exchange in a predicament, as only he has access to the cold wallet storages.

According to the affidavit submitted by Robertson, the storages hold 26,488.59834 Bitcoins; 11,378.79082 Bitcoin Cash, 11,149.74262 Bitcoin Cash SV, 35,230.42779 Bitcoin Gold; 199,888.408 Litecoins; and 429,922.0131 Ethereum as at 18 January and further reports indicated that the exchange was still accepting deposits after Cotten’s death.

The exchange also had challenges with fiat custody as funds that were deposited in a personal account were frozen – the company had no corporate account due to the nature of cryptocurrency business in the region, and funds operated through third-party has also been held back awaiting further order from the court, according to the affidavit.

A total of about USD 32.5 million in fiat is stuck and awaiting court proceedings before any action can be advised. Perhaps there’s hope for creditors funds to be paid back, which is however largely dependent on how the court proceedings turn out. According to the affidavit:

“The residual balance of these funds [once the cost of the proceeding is deducted], combined with net recoveries from other sources, would be made available to satisfy the claims of Quadriga’s creditors as confirmed through the CCAA process.”

The exchange hopes for a preliminary hearing on 5 February to appoint a third-party Ernst & Young Inc., to monitor the proceedings.

While exchanges provide a rather unique opportunity for digital asset owners to interact and have played important roles in the development of the cryptocurrency industry; seeing that most of the promised platforms are yet to launch a viable product, safety remains an issue.

Exchanges continue to battle on the frontline with compliance, market share, liquidity and security threats and perhaps will continue to do so until there are more standard protocols applicable for the industry. Quadriga’s unfortunate situation is bound to trigger some ill feelings towards crypto, and dent what little reputation has been built thus far. Fear that it might follow suit with the biggest cryptocurrency exchange fallout in the history of crypto – the Mt. Gox – is a possibility.

This incident has, however, further demonstrated the need for users of crypto exchange to have more active roles in the control of their funds, whether stored on an exchange or in a cold wallet in case of emergencies and unpredictable natural disaster as with the case of QuadrigaCX. As for exchanges, employing contingent approach such as multi-signature security systems can go a long way to prevent disasters such as this from scaling.


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10-Year Prison Sentence Requested for Mt Gox’s Mark Karpeles

10-Year Prison Sentence Requested for Mt Gox's Mark Karpeles

Prosecutors in the Tokyo District Court are requesting that Mark Karpeles, former CEO of defunct exchange Mt Gox, be sentenced to prison for ten years. This request occurred during the final argument of the trial; it is not a plea deal. Therefore, an official sentence will be issued soon.

There exists some misconception in the crypto space that the Karpeles got away with his alleged illicit activities during the collapse of Mt Gox. The reality is that Karpeles has been on bail since July 2016, after spending less than a year in jail. His court case continues to be active.

Karpeles is accused of embezzling JPY 340 million from Mt Gox accounts in the final four months of 2013, and using that money for business acquisitions and rent. The prosecutors specifically said: “There was no documentation of loans and there was no intention of paying back… His responsibility… is severe.” Further, they accuse Karpeles of manipulating account data to cover up the fact that the money was no longer there.

Mt Gox was the biggest Bitcoin exchange in the world when it collapsed in 2013. In total, it lost BTC 850,000 worth USD 450 million at the time, although BTC 200,000 were later found. The loss of the biggest Bitcoin exchange and funds caused a serious disruption to the entire crypto space, leading to Bitcoin’s price crashing from USD 1,100 to less than USD 200 in the following two years.

Fortunately for the customers, the drastic increase in Bitcoin’s price since the collapse of Mt Gox will ensure that they get full refunds and then some in terms of fiat, although not in terms of Bitcoin. This is because the 200,000 recovered Bitcoins are worth USD 660 million at this time. The court-appointed custodian actually cashed out a significant fraction of the Bitcoins at a much higher price earlier this year. Refunds to Mt Gox customers are expected to begin in Q1 2019.


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Mt Gox Civil Rehabilitation Claims Deadline Extended to Boxing Day

The deadline for the civil rehabilitation claims for the defunct Japan-based Mt Gox exchange might be extended till 26 December, says trustee Nobuaki Kobayashi in a document released yesterday. It states: “If filings are delayed for reasons not attributable to creditors, proofs of rehabilitation claims filed after the deadline (i.e., 22 October 2018) may be acceptable.”

The previous deadline of 22 October for the submission of claims has already been exceeded but considerations are being made for the global distribution of creditors and extended time necessary for filing documentation. The current terms for the extension to creditors appears to allow creditors who are yet to submit their claims to do so on or before the new date of 26 December.

The decision is still subject to the rulings of the court if the deadline is exceeded and more submissions are still being received. The Rehabilitation Trustee does note good faith by promising to make efforts to appeal to the court to accept the proofs of rehabilitation claims filed after the original date.

The document further requested the creditors of the exchange to submit either an online or offline copy of the claim with their appropriate seal or signature. A guideline has also been provided to aid the process of filling the form.

The Mt Gox hack still remains an indelible moment in the history of cryptocurrency trading, with some BTC 850,000 stolen from the exchange.

The exchange began the collection of claims on 23 August, The tentative date for the repayments is set to happen sometime after February 2019 with no specific date announced yet.


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Bitcoin Unlikely to Crash After Mt Gox Payouts

Speculation that Mt Gox payouts will crash the Bitcoin markets has been gathering ever since creditors of the exchange began filing civil rehabilitation claims in August.

Specifically, one of the numerous Mt Gox creditors, Kim Nilsson, uses the very intense wording that the payouts will “completely crash the market”. Upon review, however, it appears that Nilsson’s claims aren’t likely to happen.

Japan-based Mt Gox was the biggest Bitcoin exchange during the early days of Bitcoin. It collapsed spectacularly after a hack in 2015, resulting in the theft of BTC 850,000 Bitcoins worth USD 473 million then but a whopping USD 5.44 billion as of this writing on 20 September 2018. Hope arrived for creditors when BTC 200,000 was found in a wallet used before 2011; these are today worth more than twice the amount in US dollars lost at the time of the hack.

While creditors will not recover lost Bitcoin, they stand to receive a full refund in US dollars with modest profits.

Speculation on the effect of these returns began when the recovered Bitcoin were liquidated for US dollars towards the peak of the Bitcoin rally in late 2017 and early 2018. After the liquidation, somewhere between BTC 138,000 and BTC 170,000 will be distributed to creditors. These payouts are what Nilsson is referring to, which won’t occur until February 2019 at the earliest when Mt Gox’s trustee will submit a payout plan to Japanese courts.

Even at the high-end estimate of BTC 170,000, which is USD 1.09 billion, there is no chance that the market would significantly crash when the payouts occur. As of September 2018, Bitcoin’s spot markets have USD 4 billion of trading volume daily, so that payout would only account for 25% of average daily trading volume.

Other mitigating factors are that creditors are unlikely to receive Bitcoin payouts at the exact same time. Some will also choose to hold Bitcoin due to its long-term profit potential, while others will use over the counter (OTC) markets as well as peer-to-peer trading networks to liquidate.

All factors considered, the Mt Gox payouts should only have a temporary, even negligible impact on the Bitcoin market price. If there is any noticeable impact at all around the time payouts occur, it will likely be from other traders and investors dumping due sell-off pressure.


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P2P Exchange Bisq: “It Doesn’t Get More Decentralized Than This”

With a recent surge in so-called decentralized cryptocurrency exchange platforms, peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange platform Bisq appears to be one of the very few to attempt serious decentralization.

Once the favored method of exchange, P2P volume has fallen over the years but with increasing privacy and security challenges on centralized exchanges, some like Bisq see a revival in the concept of direct exchange via P2P.

Felix Moreno is one of just a few individuals who work on the decentralized P2P exchange platform Bisq openly. Most people working on it volunteer their services anonymously and for free. Why? Because, as Moreno told Bitcoin News, it is the ”holy grail” of decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges.

Bitcoin News caught up with Moreno to discuss the logistics of running a nearly entirely decentralized exchange, why they will have to fight tooth and nail to keep it that way, and why know-your-customer (KYC) regulations are really just a way for the government to get into your pockets.

Moreno’s experience

He has been in the Bitcoin world for a long time, suffered through the Mt Gox fiasco and various hacks and scams before, and now wants to do his part in minimizing these experiences for others.

”What do we need that can make exchanging as decentralized as the Bitcoin network itself? This is the closest we have gotten to that ideal,” he said. This is one of the most interesting projects Moreno says he has worked on, both making him understand what makes Bitcoin special and what potential decentralization can unlock, Moreno explains his belief that Bisq’s founders really try and live up to this standard.

A return to private exchanges between crypto users

Bisq founder Manfred Karrer shared these comments about the platform: ”To enable a privacy protecting exchange between fiat currencies and Bitcoin, it is crucial to keep your Bitcoin untainted. Protection of privacy is here directly related to security. There is a long list of hacks of centralized Bitcoin exchanges. In such events, your personal financial data including your residency address can end up in the hand of hackers and criminals. The only protection is to not store user data.”

The Bisq project is open source, operating entirely with the help of informal collaborators besides the founders. There was no initial coin offering held to raise funds; the few who helped contribute the minimal funds pre-launch did not do so expecting to see their money again. The mission getting these people so excited is an ambition to create a platform like BitTorrent but instead of offering music, offering a cryptocurrency exchange for all coins, between people and users instead of companies and banks.

Right now, you can buy and sell Bitcoin and altcoins using dozens of fiat currencies but with more users, this could potentially become hundreds. The platform uses multi-signature transactions on Bitcoin smart contracts to block in escrow the Bitcoins that people use as a security deposit, so there is a mutually assured destruction for both partners in the trade if they don’t complete it correctly.

The privacy measures do not much change the process of using the platform, Moreno detailed: ”There is a local wallet in your computer under your control so there is no way that runners of the project can access it. You can fund the wallet at the moment you want to make the trade by just scanning the QR code and depositing funds straight away.”

Bisq Founder Manfred Karrer

In terms of decentralization, what makes Bisq so different from other exchanges?

Bisq does not require you to have an account or share your information with a third-party company. Your information is stored locally in the Bisq Client, an application that you need to download onto your computer, and only the minimum of this is shared with the trade counterpart and nobody else. For example, if you are trading with fiat, your bank details will be shared. A Bitcoin-Monero trade, on the other hand, will not even share your name with the trading partner, only your wallet address.

”There is no way we could turn into a KYC financial surveillance company because there is no company, there is no one the SEC can send a subpoena to. There is no one in charge,” Moreno explained.

Privacy is crucial for them. Moreno outlined the main issue with centralized businesses: ”Big companies leak large amounts of user data every week, and the ones who are not leaking are the worst offenders, accumulating social media and search engine data to sell to advertisers in the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is something from (the book) 1984.’

Privacy, he added, is especially important with finances due to the risks of theft, fraud, and rich Bitcoin traders that could become susceptible to phishing scams if their data is shared. He also recognized that there are different degrees of decentralization with Coinbase at one end, Hodl Hodl somewhere in the middle, and then Bisq.

”Ideally, Bisq is so successful that it will be copied by a lot of people and because it is open source code this will be easy. I’m fine with that, that’s the spirit of open source,” he explained.

A dying kind

Moreno pointed out that even companies that have tried to offer decentralized platforms, such as Shapeshift, reach a certain level of success and then have to ”ignore the ‘no account needed’ hashtag”. They may not want to impose KYC, he said in the case of Shapeshift: ”I know Eric (Shapeshift CEO), he’s a great guy, really believes in privacy. But once you run a company with dozens of employees and investors you cannot take the legal risk. Shapeshift is incorporated in Switzerland so technically the SEC doesn’t have anything to say about it in theory, but in practice, the long reach of American regulators extends at least over half the world if not more… I don’t think he has a choice.”

Bisq Co-Founder Chris Beams

It is not perfect

There are risks to this level of decentralization and the platform itself is not perfect. For one, it exposes Bisq to scammers that in some other places can be stopped with an identity check, but it uses a set of incentives and smart contracts to minimize this risk. Moreno says he has used nearly every trading platform there is and has realized it is much more detrimental to scammers to have a security deposit there to lose than to ask for identification. Bisq has a double security deposit, which when trade is completed, both parties recover but if there are any issues they can lose their money.

One aspect that people may also not like is the fact you have to download a program to run on your computer.

”That’s like early 2000s, who does that anymore?” Moreno joked, clearly aware that this is a problem for some people. It is, however, the only way to exchange completely securely and to let people really have control of their own node, he said.

Some people might also not enjoy the fact that because they are completely in control of their own funds as any mistake is on the user: ”It’s like in the early days of Bitcoin when you send funds to the wrong address – you’re screwed. But that’s your responsibility and some people don’t want that.”

And then there is the issue of speed. You can not simply buy with one click when making a market order as you can on some centralized platforms; the multi-signature which is on the Bitcoin blockchain requires at least 10 minutes for confirmation. Then the speed depends on your payment network; some ways such as through a Revolut account will be quick, but international bank transfers can sometimes take five days or more.

Fighting to stay online, and why regulations are really there

While Bisq may avoid most regulations because of its decentralized structure, the path ahead for them is not easy: ”Bisq is going to have a very hard time surviving the way it is doing things… We will have to fight like hell and use every technological advantage to keep it up.”

If there is a company behind it, Moreno says, every exchange will get a call from local regulators who want first: full KYC and the source of funds for counterterrorism measures especially over certain amounts, and secondly: automatic data sharing like banks already have with tax authorities so they can ”go on phishing expeditions to see who isn’t declaring all their Bitcoin income or whatever”.

Moreno continued, ”KYC is not there out of the goodness of their hearts; it’s a slippery slope towards first identifying you, then getting money out of you. If tax authority lobbyists win, they will allow crypto activities to continue but they will be taxed and if financial industry lobbyists win, they will exclude competition so only big financial companies can run exchanges with proper licenses.”

Industry self-regulation

So is industry self-regulation the way forward? Well, Moreno thinks it could work.

He explained that now, more than ever, there is the opportunity to do it well by using smart contracts and setting up things such as automatic penalties for people who break the rules. ”That can get us very very far, much farther than all the preventative KYC regs”, he said, adding that reputation networks too have always worked because people care a lot about return trade.

”If people are completely anonymous, it’s very easy to have a selfish attitude, but if it’s someone you have some sort of relationship with, it’s only the psychopaths that are going to give that up for a short-term gain,” Moreno remarked.

Bisq Co-Founder Christoph Atteneder

Set the date: 20th September

Right now, trading volumes are comparatively very small: ”Bisq is at 183 on Coincap, it’s tiny.”

For euros and dollars, trading is decent but for some other currencies such as the Argentinian peso, there is hardly anyone on the platform offering pairs. ”Argentina really needs it but again, most people will not do the work of finding decentralized exchanges until they suffer a hack or find their account frozen,” Moreno noted.

To try and encourage traders, Moreno has planned a kick start virtual event on 20 September 2018. He is asking everybody who is interested to go on Bisq and place an ad.

”If you don’t want to trade just say ‘I’m here, I’m interested and when the time comes to buy and sell I will be here,’ especially for lesser used currencies. If we can get 4/5 people for these currencies, other people can see there are people trading around them.”

It may not be the fastest platform, the most accessible or provide some of the assurances that KYC compliant exchanges do, but as Moreno believes, ”Right now, Bisq is the best we have got by far.”

To find out more about Bisq, or to contribute to the platform, join the Slack or follow them on Twitter.


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Mt. Gox Collecting Creditors’ Lost Funds Claims

Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox began collecting civil rehabilitation claims on Thursday as it attempts to start restoring the creditors’ lost bitcoins.

The platform released an online claim submission process with Nobuaki Kobayashi as the acting trustee. The claimants will be able to respond until October 22. Detailed online is advice and a step-by-step guide on how exactly users can make their claims or access their Mt. Gox accounts to claim the ”return of cryptocurrency and money against MTGOX.” There is also an offline process that can be followed, should there be any issues or lack of information required to submit claims online.

In an online statement earlier this month, Mt. Gox officials warned that any proof of claim not issued by the deadline would be subject to disenfranchisement — a loss of the right to claim. It also detailed the Mt. Gox administration’s ambition to make the whole civil rehabilitation process as comprehensive and transparent as possible. The statement reads: ”The rehabilitation plan should be simple and the implementation thereof should have a high degree of certainty.”

These recent proceedings have been welcomed by users of the platform that failed to submit claims prior to its bankruptcy.

Mt. Gox’s controversial history

One of the earliest cryptocurrency exchanges, Mt. Gox, collapsed in early 2014 following the biggest Bitcoin theft to date: BTC 850,000, approximately USD 473 million at the time.

While BTC 200,000 were later recovered, they remained frozen in Mt Gox’s accounts as it fell into bankruptcy, leaving creditors waiting nearly four years to know whether or not to ever expect their funds returned.

Mass bitcoin sell-offs by Mt. Gox has characterized the exchange’s practices since November 2017, often allegedly causing markets to become unsettled. In June, however, Kobayashi stated that he would make sure this came to an end.

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Trump Aide Mulvaney Says Hands-Off Bitcoin Approach Will Push Market

Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, says a “Goldilocks moment” needs to be found in any regulation of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, reports Coindesk.

John Michael Mulvaney is an American politician of the Republican Party serving in President Donald Trump’s cabinet as Director of the Office of Management and Budget and Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since 2017. He was a founding member of the blockchain caucus back in 2016 claiming then:

“Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the financial services industry, the US economy, and the delivery of government services.”

Mulvaney, a self-confessed conservative in fiscal matters, has nonetheless expressed concerns about over-regulation in the cryptocurrency industry, claiming that to do so would discourage interest in the burgeoning marketplace:

“We knew at an early point in Bitcoin that as with any developing financial technology we needed to find that sweet spot… if Mt Gox became a regular occurrence it dramatically undermines confidence in the markets and prevents innovation. And if we over-regulate and discourage people from entering the marketplace, that has bad consequences too.”

He made the comments at the Future of Fintech conference hosted by research and analysis firm CB Insights when  he made his sugary reference, saying that a kind of middle path was the right approach to regulating the market; a “Goldilocks” route, arguing that it is also important to consider the protection of investors as well as companies and not weigh them now with unnecessary laws:

“It’s a new and innovative technology, it’s a nonbanking system, it’s whatever. If people still can’t get access to their own money, that’s a problem. So the law’s functioning correctly there.”

President Trump’s personal view regarding digital currencies is fairly obscure, considering he appears to a have a view on everything else. However, apart from Mulvaney’s appointment, some of his other selections to prominent roles in government back in 2016 had cryptocurrency links, such as Milo Yiannopoulos, the technology editor for Breitbart News and a Bitcoin supporter, and Peter Thiel, a vocal Bitcoin advocate and an investor in cryptocurrency startup BitPay, according to Forex News Now.


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Marco Santori – Bitcoin Law In The U.S., Part I

Marco Santori – Bitcoin Law In The U.S., Part I:

Marco Santori, Chairman of Bitcoin Foundation (@BTCFoundation)’s Regulatory Affairs Committee, gives a basic primer on the state of US law as it applies to digital currency entrepreneurs.  Excerpts of the post on Coindesk:

If the last few months have taught us anything, it is that there will soon exist a new and evolving body of law: The Law of Digital Currency, or, as some would prefer it: Bitcoin Law.”

”[…] ‘virtual currency’ is something of a loaded term, and bitcoin may not even be best described as a currency at all.”

“[In addition to regulators FinCEN and the SEC, the] consensus among legal professionals is that two more government agencies might soon have a hand in the market as well: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).”

“Some have called [FinCEN’s issuance of guidance] bitcoin’s ‘watershed moment’ because of its clear, unequivocal positive message: bitcoin is not illegal. The negative consequence, though, was just as obvious: Many bitcoin businesses models are illegal.”

“In effect, the [Bank Secrecy Act (BSA)] deputizes financial institutions, requiring them to act as the government’s foot soldiers in its war on money laundering.”

 – (Further discussion of the article)

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