Japanese prosecutors charge Karpeles with embezzling 321 million yen ($2.66 million) by transferring clients’ funds deposited at Mt.Gox’s bank account to other accounts. Sources say the money was spent on buying computer software development rights and an expensive custom-built bed. Karpeles is suspected of falsifying data on the outstanding balance of the exchange. Karpeles has denied the charges, telling investigators the data falsification was done for the company and he had intended to pay back the money. He has been held without formal charge for six weeks, as allowed under Japanese law.
Rolling Stone publishes a profile of Karpeles and Mt. Gox, titled The Rise and Fall of a Bitcoin Kingpin. On stealing Gameboys and mobile phones as a teenager by hacking shopping websites:
A lot of people respected me for that. I did feel more important, in a way. If I need something, I press a button and I get it.
On what he felt like when he realized $650 million in bitcoins were gone:
It really felt unreal. I don’t know how to describe that. When you get a hospital operation without any anesthetic, it hurts at first, but at some point the pain reaches a point where you don’t feel anything anymore.
After three weeks with no formal charges Japanese police says they will issue a fresh arrest warrant accusing him of pocketing $2.6 million worth of Bitcoin deposits, which was mainly spent on buying software rights, but also includes $48,000 for a luxury bed. Police are also reportedly interested in questioning Karpeles about the disappearance of 850,000 coins worth 48 billion yen last year. They were valued at around $480 million at the time of the disappearance, and $387 million at current exchange rates.
Karpeles is arrested at his home by Japanese police who say he accessed a computer system and falsified data on its outstanding balance. Police say Karpeles protested at his arrest and said he will not sign any documents until his lawyer arrives. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police say they believe Karpeles had manipulated transaction records on a computer system that Mt. Gox used to swap Bitcoins for dollars, and had “unjustly inflated the balance” of an account held under his name:
He created false information that $1 million had been transferred into the account, when in fact it had not been.
Karpeles has not been formally charged. Police can detain him for up to 23 days before charging him.
The bankruptcy trustee extends the period for filing bankruptcy claims from May 29, 2015 until 12 noon July 29, 2015. After July 29, the only things that a user will be able to do through the online method will be to view bankruptcy claims filed by the user and transfer the bankruptcy claims to another person.
A notice (link) posted on Mt. Gox’s website, says customers can make bankruptcy claims by signing with their account at claims.mtgox.com. There is also an offline option. Those filing must sign up to, or already have, a Kraken account since any returned coins will be deposited via the service. Returns will be calculated at a rate of $483 per BTC with an additional 6 percent per annum. Mt. Gox customers have until May 29 to file their claim. The company’s creditors plan to make a decision on returns by September 9, 2015.
The bankruptcy trustee for Mt. Gox announces it will work with California-based Bitcoin exchange, Kraken, to return the money left in the estate to the company’s 127,000 creditors. Kraken CEO Powell says the company will help with the claims process, including evaluating the assets owed to creditors, and that it will assist in the investigation of Mt. Gox’s collapse. He says the trustee will have the final decision on payments in Bitcoin:
Allowing the creditors to go on without reinvestment, I think, would be very wrong. We’ve got to have the money that was locked up for the last 10 months returned as soon as possible.
On whether the exchange should be revived:
There are no assets, no brand. There is nothing to speak of to revive.
Karpeles agrees to an interview with PC World on the condition that he will not discuss other than in general terms what happened at the company, the police investigation into it and other litigation involving him. He says Tibanne now has 13 employees and still does Web and server hosting as well as Web and mobile application development. Tibanne’s graphics editing software subsidiary, Shade3D, has about 10 staff.
I’ve been trying to keep Tibanne and Shade3D running well so we can maybe assist with the Mt. Gox bankruptcy…I cannot apologize enough for what happened. While I believe I did everything I could do to prevent this from happening, it still happened. Right now, I’m trying to do my best to cooperate with the bankruptcy process and the ongoing investigation.
Karpeles says Bitcoin needs the kind of physical security measures that are used to protect gold, including 24-hour operation centers manned by guards and accessed only through hardware tokens, with staff who have undergone extensive background checks.
[Without major investments in security infrastructure] most likely we’re going to see more companies getting hacked, or bitcoin being stolen.
Karpeles is interviewed by Tokyo-based journalist, Nathalie Stucky. On whether the Japanese police have enough knowledge to investigate Mt. Gox:
I think that those who think that the Japanese police is “incapable” slightly underestimate them if they think that they are not advancing. I don’t have all the details, but I have more details than usual people. So I have seen things that others won’t ever see. And based on that, I think the Japanese police are quite efficient. But I totally support the idea that several people start their own investigations. It is generally a good idea to have different people having different way of seeing the same problem. The police does not report into details on what they are doing, that’s why it might seem like they are not doing anything but they are actually working on this. As for understanding the situation, I think I gave them enough training so that they can now go on. It is a recurrent fact that the Japanese police arrest innocents and make them confess that they did the thing. So, I simply hope that they won’t do anything insane. That is something that is not guaranteed though.
A question he wishes people would ask:
I wished that someone had asked me how I’m doing. I think everyone sees me as “Mr. Mt Gox,” and not enough like a human being, or just a person. Although I don’t always agree with what human beings think, or the way they react, it’s sometimes disappointing, everyone needs human interaction.
The WSJ interviews Karpeles at his home on the top floor of a 33-story building in Tokyo’s Meguro neighborhood. It is first media interview since a news conference when Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy in February.
All I can say is I am deeply sorry. But I did what I could, and I swear I haven’t been doing anything too luxurious.
We had some cases where a stranger sneaked in and took things away. We also have at least one former employee stealing the company’s data.
On what he had done wrong:
Management. I was too busy and couldn’t lay out an adequate corporate structure. I wish I had five of me, as I was too busy with meetings with banks, lawyers and business partners. That was all painful, I wish I had more time to do engineer-type of work. We tried [to hire experienced professionals] but we didn’t have money and also often they turned us down.
Asked when he found out the Bitcoins were gone:
I always worried about ‘What if all the bitcoins were gone?’ Since that actually happened, I have gone through many sleepless nights. Scared, frustrated and angry—-so many emotions were occupying my mind.
He wishes someone should buy the exchange and says that Bitcoin has the potential to change the world but is too easy to use for illegal activities.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stacey G. Jernigan accepts Mt. Gox’s U.S. filing and recognizes Mt. Gox’s Japanese bankruptcy as the foreign main proceeding. The ruling empowers the company’s Japanese trustee to examine witnesses, gather and review evidence, and oversee assets in the U.S. She says
This is really going to be all about the customers, who make up almost all of the creditors, and trying to get them a recovery
The original founder of the site explains his relationship with Karpeles in an interview with Ars Technica.
I met [Karpeles] I think on bitcointalk.org. The Bitcoin community was very small at that time and I asked him to do some software development for me. He did that task and I was looking for someone else to run Mt. Gox so I could focus on other things. We discussed the possibility of him buying Mt. Gox from me and I ended up selling it to him in 2011.
I have not had any involvement with Mt. Gox other than as a minority shareholder since early 2011 when I sold it to Mark Karpeles, whom I have never even met in person,” he said. “It is my understanding that Mark also rewrote the entire codebase sometime in 2011 shortly after the sale and none of my code remained in use. Aside from the sale, I have never received any distributions or profits from Mark
McCaleb also tells Ars he lost around $50,000 (held in dollars, not bitcoins) when the exchange closed.
According to a statement and court filings, U.S. and Canadian customers have agreed to settle their proposed class action lawsuits by supporting a plan by Sunlot Holdings to buy the exchange and accept their share of bitcoins still held by Mt. Gox. Sunlot plans to buy Mt. Gox for one Bitcoin (less than $500).
The customers will share in a 16.5 percent stake after Mt. Gox is sold to Sunlot, a firm backed by child actor-turned entrepreneur Brock Pierce and venture capitalist William Quigley, and split the 200,000 bitcoins that Mt. Gox said it found after seeking bankruptcy protection. They will also split up to $20 million held by the administrator for Mt. Gox. Jay Edelson, the lead attorney in the U.S. case said:
This is the customers’ best option and the only chance they have for full restitution
The settlement releases Jed McCaleb, and Gonzague Gay-Bouchery, who have committed to help pursue the class action against the remaining defendants: Karpeles, Tibanne, Mizuho Bank Ltd and others.
The Tokyo District Court dismisses an application for civil rehabilitation and appoints an administrator of the company’s assets in place of Karpeles.
Karpeles: There are no prospects for the restart of the business. The dismissal of the application for commencement of a civil rehabilitation procedure will create great inconvenience and concerns to our creditors for which we apologize
The administrator, lawyer Nobuaki Kobayashi, said in a separate statement that the court will probably order the start of bankruptcy proceedings. How the company is treated will be decided by taking into account factors including whether there is any candidate to buy the business, Kobayashi said. Kobayashi also said any investigation of the liability of Karpeles will be conducted as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.
Karpeles appears before Japanese TV news cameras in Tokyo, bowing deeply for several minutes.
Mt Gox’s business plan for 2014-2017 is released.
After meeting with Karpeles, Ver makes a video statement:
Today I’m at the Mtgox world headquarters in Tokyo Japan. I had a nice chat with MTGOX CEO, Mark Karpeles, about their current situation. He showed me multiple bank statements, as well as letters from banks and lawyers. I’m sure that all the current withdrawal problems at MTGOX are being caused by the traditional banking system, not because of a lack of liquidity at MTGOX.
Reuters interviews Karpeles, who while sitting on a big blue ball, explains that the currency needs more merchants to adopt it so it can grow,
Karpeles is sued by a customer who claims he had paid 15,000 euros ($20,700) for a website to be developed that was never built. The Tokyo District Court rules in May 2013 that Karpeles has to return the money.
A hacker transfers 25,000 Bitcoins are transferred from 478 accounts on the currency’s largest exchange — Mt. Gox. Mt. Gox admits to a major breach and shuts down.
Karpeles: One account with a lot of coins was compromised and whoever stole it (using a HK based IP to login) first sold all the coins in there, to buy those again just after, and then tried to withdraw the coins. The $1000/day withdraw limit was active for this account and the hacker could only get out with $1000 worth of coins. Apart from this no account was compromised, and nothing was lost. Due to the large impact this had on the Bitcoin market, we will rollback every trade which happened since the big sale, and ensure this account is secure before opening access again.
Within an hour of the hack, 100,000 Bitcoins were sold at incredibly cheap rates on Mt. Gox, plunging the market from around $17.50 USD per Bitcoin to just $0.01 per Bitcoin. Meanwhile 400,000 other Bitcoins are reported missing (approx $8.75M USD at the time). Around the same time a hacker posted the following comment:
I have hacked into mtgox database. Got a huge number of logins password combos.
Mtgox has fixed the problem now. Too late, cause I’ve already got the data. Will sell the database for the right price
Karpeles buys Mt. Gox from an unemployed software hacker named Jed McCaleb. Before the site started trading in Bitcoins, it was an online marketplace where people could buy and sell cards for the Magic: The Gathering trading card game. Mt. Gox is short for “Magic: The Gathering Online Exchange” McCaleb, nervous about regulatory scrutiny on bitcoin, wanted rid of the exchange and sold it to Karpeles in for no upfront fee, people with knowledge of the deal said. Karpeles told others he had later paid McCaleb a small fee, calling it “a very good deal”.
Karpeles arrives in his Japan with his cat Tiban and some hard drives. Karpeles first visited Japan for a month in 2007, and posted a blog entry in Japanese saying he was a ‘geek’.
Karpeles Blog: I do computer-related work (a programmer); my goal is world domination.
Karpeles is arrested by BEFTI (Brigade Investigation of Fraud in Information Technology) after allegations that he stole his employers’ data. He describes the BEFTI officers as “barbaric”, commenting that the arrest was “like no other”. After 13 hours in jail and a search of the servers, Palm Pilot, and other home computers, he was released after making a statement.
Karlpeles moves to Israel, hoping to get closer to his Catholic faith while working for internet company Fotovista. In a blog post he argues that Hebrew is as important to Christians as it is to religious Jews. He only worked at this job for a few months before he once again began to feel depressed and “empty” according to one blog. In addition to his work at Fotovista he works on his own site, Ookoo.org. However, due to power outages and service disruptions he loses most of his customers and returns to France.
Karpeles visits Japan for the first time:
Having always dreamed of going to Japan, I gladly accepted. What follows is a race [with customs] to obtain a passport in less than 3 days, prepare a departure to Japan, fund my plane. Finally, I’m flying to Japan. Over there everything [is going great], I took a few thousand photos , and a whole lot of adventure, full of discovery and extremely exciting things
Hired by Linux Cyberjoueurs, Owned by Stephane Portha, the company develops Flash games and Graal online, an MMO RPG. Through the following year Portha complains that Karpeles is spending too much time on internet chats instead of coding.
I find myself obliged to notify you of a reprimand for your misconduct.
You have been notified on numerous occasions that the use of the [workplace’s] Internet and your computer are reserved for your professional work, but that occasional private use is tolerated provided that it does not impede the good conduct of the affairs of the company. (See your contract of employment)
In the office Friday, March 12, 2004 I observed that you not only did not do your [coding] work, but that you were [instead] using Internet chat software.
Also, I found it particularly troubling that you would lie [to me] when i asked you about what you were working on and that you [did not stop] your use of this software to chat after several requests for explanation [of your behavior].
If this happens again, we will be compelled to take serious disciplinary action, rather than a simple reprimand.
Please accept my sentiments on this matter, sir.
Note: Exact year is unknown.
According to Reuters, blog posts Karpeles wrote in 2006 say he was arrested twice in France before he was 21 for computer fraud-related charges. One resulted in a 3-month suspended sentence. French authorities in Tokyo said they have seen confirmation of one prior conviction, but do not have details.
Indeed, during my misspent youth, I made a huge, huge mistake. Enough silliness that I found myself locked into custody and brought temporarily placed in the “mousetrap” (souricière: possibly “n.f. (pol.): ‘Baited trap’ laid by the forces of law-and-order.”). This was followed by an investigation of more than a year, which eventually ended in a trial.
I will not give too much detail about what I did wrong, just say it concerns payment systems on the Internet. I spent two years taking risks becoming larger, perhaps because it was an exciting side … whatever, I ended up getting arrested (in rather bizarre circumstances, noting that when I was arrested, I was just in a police station to file a complaint for something else).
Karpeles then notes he had to undergo psychiatric review, and that it was the psychiatrist who gave him an interest in Japan.
Then I had the right to visits to a shrink. And it turned out, after much discussion, this psych was also interested in Japan (except that a psychologist there earns a rather good living, and they can go regularly) … And I had a agreement with the therapist. The agreement was rather simple. I had to do historical research in the history of Japan and write a report. Obviously it was not so complicated for me, but I could still see and more interesting things about some of the history of Japan.
In the end he stated in his report (which I have a copy) that I was not responsible for my actions, and that the abuse of cannabis was bad for my mental health. I was rather shocked (I never, oh, ever smoked substances “illegal”, I swear on it), then after thinking a lot, I finally concluded that it was can not be so bad as that. In the end, the trial was not concluded too bad for me (3 months suspended sentence disappearing after 5 years, and nothing in the criminal record).
Mark Marie Robert Karpelès is born in Chenove, in the Burgundy region of France. His mother is Anne Karpelès, a geologist turned realtor.
He writes his first computer program aged 10, the same year he is sent to Collège Prieuré de Binson, a Catholic boarding school two hours north of Dijon.
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