Founder of crypto exchange dies taking only password (and $190M) with him

Andrew Cummings
February 5, 2019

The owner of Canada's largest cryptocurrency exchange has unexpectedly died at the age of 30, taking with him the only password for a digital account holding £145 million of customers' money.

Canadian cryptocurrency exchange QuadrigaCX may be reaching for the ouija board - after its founder, Gerald Cotten, died suddenly with the only password, leaving his widow unable to access £145m in client funds.

Gerald Cotten, CEO and co-founder of QuadrigaCX, died of complications from Crohn's disease December 9 while traveling in India to set up an orphanage, the firm wrote January 14 on Facebook.

"Quadriga's inventory of cryptocurrency has become unavailable and some of it may be lost", Jennifer Robertson, the widow of the exchange's founder, Gerald Cotten, wrote after his reported death of complications from Crohn's disease in December, as CoinDesk reported, citing a court filing. He was in India "opening an orphanage to provide a home and safe refuge for children in need".

QuadrigaCX had been plagued with legal trouble in the past year: In early 2018, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce froze more than US$25m of QuadrigaCX's assets after noticing "irregularities" in the exchange's payment processes. But Robertson provided the court with a copy of Cotten's death certificate, court records show, and Robertson said she and QuadrigaCX's interim chief executive have been hit with threats and "slanderous comments" by angry customers.

Robertson has access to Cotten's laptop but writes that she is unable to open it.

Ms Robertson said she was not involved in Mr Cotten's business while he was alive and did not know the password or recovery key.

"Despite repeated and diligent searches, I have not been able to find them written down anywhere", she said.

Robertson has retained an expert to try to access the funds but he has so far not been able to do so.

Quadriga CX's directors posted a notice on the firm's website on Jan 31 that it was asking the Nova Scotia court for creditor protection while they address "significant financial issues" affecting their ability to serve customers.

QuadrigaCX, at a court hearing set for Tuesday, is expected to ask a judge to appoint Ernst & Young as an overseer for its financial issues.

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