Mt. Gox was one of the earliest and most public downfalls of the Bitcoin era. In early 2014, Mt. Gox stood atop the field of Bitcoin exchanges as the largest, until it declared bankruptcy following the disappearance of almost $500 million Bitcoins and cash from its coffers.
The exchange lost 850,000 Bitcoins with a value of about $450 million in February of 2014, alongside an additional $27 million in cash. Some 200,000 of those Bitcoins were eventually found, leaving 650,000 still missing. In the time since, many analysts, former Mt. Gox investors, and others have speculated as to where the missing currency is. This is particularly important as Bitcoin's price has soared in recent months: the missing Bitcoins could be worth as much as $2 billion at this point.
Investigators "Definitely" Know Where Missing Coins Are
According to reporting by Cyberscoop, the investigator working on behalf of Mt. Gox's creditors, Chainalysis, "definitely" knows the location of the missing coins. This comes via congressional testimony provided by the company's co-founder. This information emerged in a June 8 hearing by the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit finance. The hearing centered on the national security implications involved in cryptocurrencies.
Witnesses in the hearing were drawn from Chainalysis and Elliptic, both firms that have run investigations into cryptocurrency security. When Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, inquired about the reason the missing Bitcoins couldn't be traced considering that the transactions were tied to the Blockchain. "I was particularly struck by your opening remarks that we can detect the activity," he said. "It seems that if we have this ability... then we should be able to find the missing Mt. Gox coins. Why can't we?"
According to Jonathan Levin, co-founder of Chainalysis, "we actually did find those... the destination of those coins is definitely known." Davidson did not follow up on the location of the coins and Levin did not share that or other information about where the coins currently are, who has them, or how that will impact the ongoing cases involving Mt. Gox.
Knowing the Location May Not Be Enough
According to Jerry Brito, the executive director of Coin Center, "just because you know where they are may not mean you can get them back." Mark Karpeles, CEO of Mt. Gox who was briefly jailed in 2015, has stated that "many popular rumors about Mt. Gox about the stolen Bitcoins not actually existing or being stolen by me are absolutely false."
It's possible that the hearing involved a miscommunication. Investigators have long known many of the specific transactions in which the coins were stolen, Kim Nilsson, a security researcher at WizSec, told website CyberScoop earlier this month. That does not necessarily mean that the location of the coins is currently available or that they are recoverable, however.