Australian identified as suspected Bitcoin founder

Australian identified as suspected Bitcoin founder
An Australian Federal Police officer looks through a box in the garage as he and other officers search the home of probable creator of cryptocurrency bitcoin Craig Steven Wright in Sydney's north shore December 9, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

Sydney - Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright has been identified by tech publications as one of the suspected secretive founders of online cryptocurrency Bitcoin, as a home reportedly belonging to him was raided as part of a tax probe Wednesday.

There has long been speculation about who was behind the software written in 2009 under the Japanese-sounding name Satoshi Nakamoto, with various media outlets unsuccessfully trying to find out.

Technology-focused websites Wired and Gizmodo have now both suggested Wright was responsible, saying he fit the creator's profile in nearly every detail, citing leaked documents.

"The signs point to Craig Steven Wright, a man who never even made it onto any Nakamoto hunters' public list of candidates, yet fits the cryptocurrency creator's profile in nearly every detail," said Wired of its investigation.

"And despite a massive trove of evidence, we still can't say with absolute certainty that the mystery is solved.

"But two possibilities outweigh all others: Either Wright invented bitcoin, or he's a brilliant hoaxer who very badly wants us to believe he did." Gizmodo said Wright and Dave Kleiman, an American computer forensics expert who died in 2013, were both involved in the development of the digital currency.

It cited hacked emails and other documents, passed to its website, apparently showing Wright making repeated claims to being Satoshi Nakamoto over a period of years.

None of the details could be verified by AFP.

Last year, Newsweek ran a cover story claiming reclusive engineer Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto was the mystery founder, but the Japanese-American denied any involvement.

People in the Bitcoin development community only know "Satoshi Nakamoto" as the name of the person who originated the ingenious concept and the computer coding behind it. But no one ever saw the presumably pseudonymous creator - he, she or they only communicated on the Internet.

Whoever is behind it likely wants to keep their identify secret as detractors say Bitcoin's use on the underground Silk Road website, where users could buy drugs and guns with it, could link them with criminal activity.

On Wednesday, police raided a home in Sydney reportedly belonging to Wright.

The Guardian Australia said police forced open the property with staff wearing white gloves seen from the street searching the cupboards and surfaces of the garage.

"The Australian Federal Police can confirm it has conducted search warrants to assist the Australian Taxation Office at a residence in Gordon, Sydney," police said in a statement, without confirming it belonged to Wright.

"This matter is unrelated to recent media reporting regarding the digital currency Bitcoin." The Australian Tax Office refused to comment, citing confidentiality.

Bitcoins are generated by complex chains of interactions among a huge network of computers around the planet, and are not backed by any government or central bank, unlike traditional currencies.

Its initial success has since met with a number of highly publicised setbacks.

One of Bitcoin's biggest exchanges, the Tokyo-based MtGox, shuttered last year after admitting 850,000 coins - worth US$480 million (S$674 million) at the time - had disappeared from its digital vaults.

Bitcoin's reputation was also damaged when US authorities seized funds as part of an investigation into the online black market Silk Road.

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