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$69 billion in Bitcoin is at the center of Miami crypto court fight

November 2, 2021, 2:57 PM UTC

Bragging rights and more than $69 billion are at stake in a cryptocurrency court battle underway in Miami.

Legal arguments started Monday in a trial that could (possibly) establish who was the true creator of Bitcoin—and who has rights to Satoshi Nakamoto’s 1.1 million BTC wallet.

A civil trial pitting Ira Kleiman versus Craig Wright seeks to establish who was the real person behind the Bitcoin founder’s pseudonym. Wright, an Australian computer scientist, has made his claim since 2016, but Kleiman says his late brother David, a friend of Wright’s, was the cocreator and is entitled to a share of the Bitcoin nest egg.

Given Bitcoin prices early Tuesday morning, the wallet’s holdings would make its possessor the 15th richest person in the world (assuming they started with no net worth), according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. That amount is higher than the net worth of members of the Walton family, Carlos Slim, and Charles Koch.

Kleiman alleges that his late brother David collaborated with Wright on the creation and early development of Bitcoin, making his heirs entitled to half of the wallet’s contents.

Even as Kleiman tries to make his case for a share of Wright’s funds, there’s substantial skepticism from crypto experts that Wright is, in fact, Satoshi Nakamoto. He has not yet publicly shown he has access to the Nakamoto wallet, which only encourages his detractors. And there are older accusations that the proof he has provided was fraudulent.

That raises a question: If Kleiman wins the case, but Wright is not Satoshi (or has lost access to the wallet), will Kleiman still be unable to access the Bitcoin at the heart of the dispute?

The Miami case, at its heart, is not about Satoshi’s identity. It’s looking instead at the business partnership between Wright and Kleiman and whether they were, in fact, partners or just friends.

The jury trial is expected to last three weeks.

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