Mt. Gox is Mt. Gone

The Bitcoin exchange has filed for bankruptcy protection.

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You can’t say no one didn’t see this coming. It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. Mt. Gox has filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan after losing what has been validated at 750K customer owned Bitcoins and 100K Bitcoins of its own. The losses represent approximately $474M based on a Bitcoin price of $558.

Mt. Gox has ¥6.5 billion in outstanding debt. Approximately ¥2.8 billion in cash cannot be accounted for.

“I am deeply sorry,” Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles told reporters in Japanese, offering a ritual bow of apology. “There were weaknesses in the system.” The website, mtgox.com remains off line.

While Gox is apologetic, other investors are seeking justice. One investor, declining to be recognized, said, “This is not just a civil matter. They knew they had lost these coins and continued to operate the exchange and accept deposits. You can’t sell something you don’t have and not be committing fraud.” Other investors are alleging that the bug that was exploited to misappropriate all the funds was something that had been well known in the Bitcoin community for years.

However, the issue appears more clouded and much more complicated than a mere hack. Kenji Saito, an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Media and Governance at Japan’s Keio University indicated that, “the [bug] is too small [of an exploit] to shut down one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges in the world. Rather, it must be that Mt. Gox has [been defrauding] its customers, [well in advance of the] February 2014 [announcement].”

Japanese authorities are conducting an investigation of Mt. Gox, following is closure.

In the US, Gox was subpoenaed by Federal prosecutors in New York. According to an unidentified source for the Wall Street Journal, Gox has been asked to preserve specific documentation. The US Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York declined commenting, citing the ongoing investigation.

Now… I’ve heard a lot of speculation from a number of people here at the office saying that crypto-currencies are all going to die and this is the end of Bitcoin, Dogecoin, etc. While I’m certain that would make many international governments very happy (Bitcoin is a universal currency, and largely unregulated), I am not entirely certain that it’s going to kill the commodity. However, it certainly hasn’t done Bitcoin any favors; and its likely made its universal acceptance that much more difficult as well as pushed that possibility further out into the future.

What do you think? Did Mt. Gox defraud its investors and customers? Were they aware of the vulnerability in their systems and ignored it; or were they caught off guard? What about the ¥2.8 billion in missing cash? What’s going to happen to crypto and other digital currencies? Please tell me what you think in the discussion area, below. I’d love to hear your opinions on the matter.

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