When the 30-year-old founder of a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange died suddenly, he took the whereabouts of some C$180m ($135m; £105m) in cryptocurrency to his grave. Now, tens of thousands of Quadriga CX users are wondering if they will ever see their funds again.
In 2014, one of the world’s biggest online cryptocurrency exchanges – MtGox – unexpectedly shut down after losing 850,000 Bitcoins valued at the time at nearly $0.4bn (£0.3bn).
Its meltdown shook investors in the volatile emerging marketplace – but the calamity at the Tokyo-based company proved a boon for a new Canadian online cryptocurrency exchange.
“People like the fact we’re located in Canada and know where their money is going,” Quadriga CX founder Gerald Cotten said at the time.
Some five years later, Cotten’s sudden, untimely death has left thousands of his customers scrambling for information about their own missing funds.
“We don’t know whether or not we’re going to get our money back,” Tong Zou, who says he is owed C$560,000 – his life savings – told the BBC.
“There’s just a lot of uncertainty.”
This month, Quadriga – which had grown to become Canada’s largest cryptocurrency exchange – was granted temporary bankruptcy protection in a Canadian court.
The firm said it had spent the weeks since Cotten’s death trying desperately to “locate and secure our very significant cryptocurrency reserves”.