Prosecutors seek 10-year jail term for Mt Gox’s Mark Karpeles

Posted: 13 December 2018 10:29 am
News

Mark Karpeles is being charged with crimes against bitcoin.

Mt Gox's collapse was a defining moment in bitcoin's history. Japanese prosecutors say as much by alleging that Mark Karpeles's actions "played a great role in totally destroying the confidence of bitcoin users," Mainichi reports.



Timeline

The actions in question are that he allegedly embezzled a total of 341 million yen (US$3 million) of customer funds from the Mt Gox account, moving it to his personal account between September and December 2013, while padding the numbers on his company's trading system to cover up the loss.

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The next apparent issue was a period of very clear troubles on the exchange around the start of February, which prevented users from withdrawing funds. These problems, which Mt Gox maintained were technical rather than liquidity-related at the time, turned into a bank run.

This bank run eventually forced Mt Gox to show its empty hand, and in February 2014, Mt Gox announced that it was finished and declared that it had gone bankrupt after the earlier theft of 850,000 BTC, worth over $400 million at the time.

Missing pieces

If the embezzlement allegations from September to December are proven, it rewrites the formal Mt Gox narrative somewhat. The previously known story is that the hackers got in and covered their tracks carefully, and that Karpeles didn't discover the loss until 2014.

But with Karpeles allegedly embezzling from September to December 2013, it seems possible that the loss might have been discovered much sooner, which might have been one of the reasons for the embezzlement.

Either that, or Karpeles was coincidentally scraping away users' fiat funds even as someone else was scraping away their bitcoin funds.

It's also worth emphasising that the embezzlement period happened to be exactly when bitcoin shot from the low $100s to over $1,000 for the first time. It all happened in just a few months, in the exact same time frame that Karpeles was allegedly embezzling user funds.

Coincidence?

Unlikely. Researchers believe this rise was driven by bot wash trading. Essentially, the theory is that two bots kept trading back and forth against each other, gradually pushing prices higher. These bots are believed to have accounted for the majority of bitcoin trading volume in that time. Pretty soon, those drastic price movements started bringing in real traders. The bots were named Marcus and Willy.

The timing of all this might lead one to theorise that Karpeles was the one instructing Marcus and Willy to drive prices upwards, so he could pocket more user funds.

Prosecutors are seeking a 10-year prison sentence for Karpeles.


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