Craig Wright – Satoshi Nakamoto or Egotistical Fraud?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Craig Wright is a man who divides opinion in the cryptocurrency community – most people either love him or hate him. He is the driving force behind Bitcoin Cash Satoshi’s Vision (BCHSV) and an outspoken critic of Bitcoin, but his most heinous crime in the eyes of many is his claim, initially reluctantly but now legally enforced, that he is the creator of Bitcoin – the man behind the moniker ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’.

The man who once stated that he doesn’t want money, fame, or adoration, but instead wants to be left alone, is now suing anyone who claims he is not the anonymous Bitcoin creator, so it’s about time we saw how this all started and how we got to where we are today – with Craig Wright issuing lawsuits to cartoon cats on Twitter.

Unknown Australian Genius

Wright’s now incessant claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto didn’t originate with him. Instead, they date back to late 2015 when Wired and Gizmodo websites both ran articles that insinuated that he might be the creator of Bitcoin, along with his former associate Dave Kleiman. Wired referred to Wright as an “unknown Australian genius”, with Kleiman generally afforded a backup role.

The outlets were both emailed information that ‘outed’ Wright, seemingly against his will, which they followed up with their own research before publishing. One of Wright’s associates alleged that Wright had been hacked and extorted, and the identifying information had been leaked to the press due to his non-compliance with their demands.

Just days later, follow up pieces were published which suggested that the issue may not be as clear cut as first thought, that some of the evidence provided did not add up, or was simply fraudulent. This included Wright allegedly lying about his PhDs and his ownership of supercomputers, as well as the fact that a key piece of evidence, the two public keys associated with Wright but also linked to Satoshi Nakamoto, had been created more recently than the documents contained within them.

This was augmented by what Wired referred to as a “trail of breadcrumbs”, including blog posts from 2008 that had been edited years later to add in important details missing when the post was originally written, that handily led all the way to one person being responsible for creating Bitcoin – Craig Wright. Wired also concluded that for the extortion claim to be valid, the entire plot, including the demands, the leaking of the ‘evidence’, and the subsequent threats sent to Wright and to Wired, can also only have been orchestrated by one person – Craig Wright.

Wright’s ‘Proof Session’ Falls Flat

With the cat out of the bag, the supposedly reluctant Bitcoin creator set about telling the world just who he was, assisted by a newly-hired PR team. It was decided that Wright needed incontrovertible proof to silence the doubters, and so in May 2016 he sat down with the BBC, the Economist, and GQ magazine to take them through ‘proof sessions’ which involved Wright signing a message using the private encryption keys associated with Nakamoto.

This, Wright claimed, would prove he had access to Nakamoto’s wallet and would put to bed any doubts. Like a magician however he made sure it was shrouded in secrecy, conducting the process in private and off-camera. Wright’s showpiece backfired almost immediately, with claims pouring in that he had used a publicly available signature associated with Nakamoto and not a private, encrypted one.

In the words of Bitcoin developer Peter Todd this was like “photocopying someone else’s signature on a publicly available document and claiming it’s proof you are them.” Wright was also accused of “…amateur magician tactics to distract non-technical or non-expert staff…during a stage-managed demonstration.” As if to back up the claims that all was not as it seemed, many, like author Andrew O’Hagan who shadowed Wright throughout this process, singled out Wright’s performance in the BBC interview as being that of a man far from confident in his claims:

Fake Article Ends Coin Transfer

In the aftermath of the PR disaster, Wright claimed that he would offer ultimate proof by moving a coin out of the wallet. But, these hopes were dashed while permission was being sought from the trustee, when Wright himself sent around an email with a link to an article that suggested that he could be arrested and charged by UK authorities for terrorism offenses were he to link himself incontrovertibly to Bitcoin.

This suggestion was demonstrably false, as a little bit of research would have uncovered, and the article was later deemed to be fake. However, it was enough for Wright to down tools and leave the UK having utterly failed to prove his assertion that he was Satoshi Nakamoto, and indeed made to look much worse with his attempted fraud.

This was – or should have been – the end for Wright, who announced that he would never again attempt to offer proof of his link to Nakamoto, saying “…as the events of this week unfolded and I prepared to publish the proof of access to the earliest keys, I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot.” And all because of a pesky fake article. So close but yet so far.

Wright’s IP “Land Grab”

After a year of licking his wounds and seemingly with the failed attempt behind him, Wright was back in the headlines again in March 2017 when he combined with casino tycoon Calvin Ayre to file dozens of patents relating to blockchain and cryptocurrency, which Reuters described as an intellectual property “land grab”.

This attempt to monopolize so many aspects of the blockchain ecosystem seemed to many to fly in the face of the decentralized approach that Satoshi Nakamoto laid out in the Bitcoin whitepaper, and merely distanced Wright further from the idea that he was the mastermind of the world’s premiere decentralized currency.
By this time Wright had returned to claiming he was Satoshi Nakamoto, which was met by a chorus of accusations of him being a fraud, a fact not helped by the 2017 Bitcoin Cash hard fork that pitted Wright against the Bitcoin community once more. Even Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin got in on the act, stating that he believed Wright chose to make the Nakamoto claim “because it’s an easy on-ramp to fame and notoriety, pure and simple.”

This ties in with the claim from short-time associate Robert MacGregor who stated that Wright “freaking loves” the attention that the claim has brought, and seeks the “adoration” that final confirmation would offer.

300,000 BTC Lawsuit

With all hope of a definite claim seemingly abandoned, in early 2018 Wright was sued by Kleiman’s estate, who claimed that the pair mined between 550,000 and 1,100,000 BTC. The suit alleges that Wright forged and backdated a number of documents after Kleiman’s death to make it look like Kleiman had signed away his shares when he in fact had not, which would mean that Wright owed the estate 300,000 Bitcoin ($1.5 billion today).

Wright has denied these allegations, and the case is currently going through the Florida courts. Some believe that Kleiman is in fact the creator of Bitcoin while others believe the pair invented it together, and as a result there is an unrealistic weight of pressure on the impending court case to be able to settle once and for all in a court of law who is Satoshi Nakamoto.

Where more joy may be found however comes via the desk (well, the Twitter account) of Calvin Ayre, who set Twitter ablaze when he announced in March 2019 that Wright was planning to take legal action against naysayers:

Predictably this resulted in a tidal wave of claims to the contrary, which resulted in two confirmed legal cases, and Wright’s coin, Bitcoin Cash Satoshi’s Vision, being delisted from popular exchanges such as Binance and ShapeShift. This came six weeks after Wikileaks got involved and called Wright a “serial fabricator”, illustrating just once instance where he edited an August 2008 blog post in October 2015:

Screenshot 2020-05-08 at 06.42.57

Explanations Not Enough

So is Wright Satoshi Nakamoto? No. His manufactured ‘proof sessions’ in 2016 were nothing but a cheap trick designed to fool the uninitiated, and when given the chance to answer his critics he hid behind a fraudulent article about a non-existent threat to his freedom. It is also inconceivable that the person behind Bitcoin, the person who went to great lengths to protect his identity and the very existence of Bitcoin in its early days before stepping away at the first sign of mainstream publicity, would come out years later and be so desperate to prove his identity that he would rant and rage about it and issue frivolous lawsuits to naysayers.

In our opinion, Wright has shown little but forged documents and access to publicly available digital signatures, so it will be intriguing to see what evidence he provides to back up his case should one of his cases make it to court.

When trying to sum Craig Wright up, the Wired article from 2015 that opened the whole can of worms made a neat summary that, three and a half years later, still rings true today:

Either Wright invented bitcoin, or he’s a brilliant hoaxer who very badly wants us to believe he did.