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  • L Higgins and S Pettigrove

Bitcoin blunder: Craig Wright's assets frozen by UK judge

The crypto caper for Craig Wright continues as UK judge Justice Mellor recently ordered a worldwide freeze over Wright's assets. The order was made following an application by the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA), after their recent victory over Wright where Justice Mellor ruled that Wright was not the pseudonomous creater of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto.

Central to the Justice Mellor's concerns was Wright's endeavor to transfer assets, amounting to £6 million, to offshore entities through his RCJBR Holding company shortly after the judgment in the high-profile case was handed down on 14 March 2024. Justice Mellor found that this maneuver was a potential strategy to circumvent the financial repercussions of Wright's legal defeat.

Judge Mellor's judgment highlights Wright's past tendencies of financial non-compliance, emphasising the gravity of COPA's claim for legal costs which stands at a substantial £6.7 million. This history, coupled with the recent asset transfer, raised red flags regarding the likelihood of dissipation, prompting the imposition of a global freezing order. In their submissions, COPA raised several arguments that were persuasive, including to Wright's "dishonesty" in light of the overall history and narrative of the case:

At the general level, COPA submit that Dr Wright has shown himself prepared to lie and double-down on his lies, on such a grand scale that his "commercial morality" can only be assessed as being unacceptably low.

COPA also referred to another of Wright's legal losses in the 2021 Kleiman litigation where he was ordered to pay US $142m, and noted that Wright was held to be in contempt of court in Florida just two days after his loss in the COPA case:

There [has been] a recent ruling against Dr Wright in the ongoing Kleiman litigation in Florida. As recently as 15 March 2024, Dr Wright was held to be in contempt of court in Florida, by reason of his failure to provide asset disclosure previously ordered by the Florida court.

Justice Mellor ultimately found COPA's arguments convincing and ordered a worldwide indefinite freeze over Wright's assets, making the following orders:

First, COPA has a very powerful claim to be awarded a very substantial sum in costs.
Second, I consider there is a very real risk of dissipation.
Third, it is just in all the circumstances to grant a freezing order [over Wright's assets].
In the particular circumstances, it is also plain that the order must extend worldwide.

Many in the blockchain space are keen to see the spectacle of Dr Wright's lawsuits come to an end, and the decisions for contempt and asset freezing may well be the start of the end of this sorry story.

By Jake Huang and Michael Bacina


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