Lawyers representing the users of bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange QuadrigaCX are asking Canadian authorities to exhume the body of the exchange’s founder Gerald Cotten.
Cotten died in December 2018 due to complications related to Crohn’s Diease while on honeymoon in India. At the time of his death Cotton was the only person with passwords to QuadrigaCX digital wallets.
Although his new wife, Jennifer Robertson, has possession of his laptop, which contained the vital passwords, she remains locked out.
“The laptop computer from which Gerry carried out the companies’ business is encrypted and I do not know the password or recovery key,” she said in court filings. “Despite repeated and diligent searches, I have not been able to find them written down anywhere.”
The now bankrupt QuadrigaCX, which was one of Canada’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, said that his death meant they could not gain access to its digital wallets containing £105 million in cryptocurrencies.
His death drove the exchange into a crisis, which saw the company unable to refund its 115,000 users. In April, the company announced it was shutting down and that the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia had issued a Termination and Bankruptcy Assignment Order
Due to the suddenness of his death and the almost farcical situation surrounding the passwords, speculation has arisen that Cotten faked his death and absconded with the funds. However, no evidence to support this theory has ever surfaced in the year since his death.
Miller Thompson LLP, the legal team representing the affected users, wrote to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police requesting an exhumation and post-mortem autopsy on Cotten’s body “to confirm both its identity and the cause of death”.
Citing “decomposition concerns”, lawyers requested the exhumation be completed no later than spring 2020. The legal firm confirmed to CNN that the letter was genuine.
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Other factors have also contributed to the suspicion that Cotten may have faked his death. Numerous money-losing trades made by Cotten using customers’ funds were discovered by accounting firm, Ernst & Young, who were tasked with auditing the company as it undergoes bankruptcy proceedings.
They found Cotten had been engaging in other shady practices such as transferring large sums of money to himself and other related parties. He was found to have created accounts on the Quadriga platform under aliases that may have been used to trade on the exchange.
The firm also discovered Cotten has used vast amounts of cash to fund his jet-setter lifestyle, spending lavishly on private jets and luxury vehicles.
In a statement made via her lawyers, Robertson said she was “heartbroken to learn of this request”. She said that her late husband’s death “should not be in doubt” and added that she was unclear as to how the confirmation “would assist the asset recovery process further”.