For Bitcoin skeptics, Mt. Gox is a great piece of evidence to cite in an argument against cryptocurrencies. The early Bitcoin exchange suffered substantially when a large trove of Bitcoins, now worth hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to the cryptocurrency's recent price spike, vanished without a trace several years ago. The exchange collapsed, with most users of the service not receiving adequate compensation for their losses. Now, years after the fact and in the midst of an incredible boom among Bitcin and other digital currencies, the former CEO of Mt. Gox is going on trial in Japan because of the exchange's losses. (Related: Bitcoin Mass Hysteria: The Disaster that Brought Down Mt. Gox)
Embezzlement and Data Manipulation Charges
Mark Karpeles, a French citizen and the former CEO of Mt. Gox, is currently facing charges of embezzlement and data manipulation over the collapse of Mt. Gox. His exchange was, for a time, the busiest trading platform for Bitcoin in the world, and Karpeles lived a lifestyle that was equally lavish. Channel News Asia reports that Karpeles once lived in a penthouse apartment worth USD$11,000 per month in rent.
Karpeles was arrested for the first time in August of 2015 for his involvement with the Mt. Gox issue. He was released on bail approximately a year later. Allegations existed at the time that he had manipulated data and ended up pocketing millions of dollars worth of Bitcoins as his exchange collapsed.
850,000 Coins Disappeared
Mt. Gox admitted in 2014 that approximately 850,000 Bitcoins had disappeared from its online vaults. At the time, those coins were worth about $480 million. By current Bitcoin prices, those missing coins are worth more than $2 billion. Mt. Gox had previously claimed to host about 80% of all global Bitcoin trading. After the coins were reported missing, Mt. Gox initially claimed that there had been a bug in the underlying software which allowed hackers to steal them. Later, Karpeles alleged that he had found about 200,000 of the lost coins in what is known as a "cold wallet," a storage device that is not connected to other computers.
Although Tokyo-based Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy shortly after the coins disappeared, it did not appease hordes of angry investors who pursued a deeper investigation. In part because of the Mt. Gox situation, Japan has passed a bill which stipulates that all virtual currency exchanges must be regulated by the Financial Services Agency. In the time since his release on bail, Karpeles has reportedly been working as an IT consultant and has maintained an active social media presence on many issues regarding Bitcoin, although he has not commented on details of the Mt. Gox situation.