In late January, the wife of a cryptocurrency-exchange founder testified that her husband inadvertently took at least $137 million of customer assets to the grave when he died without giving anyone the password to his encrypted laptop. Now, outraged investors want to exhume the founder’s body to make sure he’s really dead.
The dubious tale was first reported in February, when the wife of Gerry Cotten, founder the QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exchange, submitted an affidavit stating he died suddenly while vacationing in India, at the age of 30. The cause: complications of Crohn’s disease, a bowel condition that is rarely fatal. At the time, QuadrigaCX lost control of at least $137 million in customer assets because it was stored on a laptop that—according to the widow’s affidavit—only Cotten knew the password to.
Widow Jennifer Robertson testified that she had neither the password nor the recovery key to the laptop. The laptop, she said, stored the cold wallet—that is, a digital wallet not connected to the Internet—that contained the digital currency belonging to customers of the exchange. In addition to at least $137 million in digital coin belonging to more than 100,000 customers, another $53 was tied up in disputes with third parties, investors reported at the time.
Robertson had testified that she conducted “repeated and diligent searches” for the password but came up empty. She went on to say she hired experts to attempt to decrypt the laptop, but they too failed. One expert profiled Cotten in an attempt to hack the computer, but that attempt also came to nothing.
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the amount exchange clients were unable to access is now calculated to be $250 million. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials in both Canada—where QuadrigaCX is located—and in the United States are investigating potential wrongdoing, and investors are clamoring for proof Cotten is actually dead.