Last February there was some controversy in the world of cryptocurrencies. Gerry Cotten, CEO, and founder of QuadrigaCX, the one that was the largest cryptocurrency exchange in Canada, died, taking the password of the six cold wallets in which 120 million of the 165 million euros that the platform had stored to his credit. That was a problem because those wallets were immobilized and inaccessible since without the password no movements can be made.
Now Miller Thomson, a law firm representing the affected users, has sent a letter (PDF) to the Canadian Mounted Police to request the exhumation of Cotten’s body and, according to the letter, make “a post mortem autopsy in the body of Gerald Cotten to confirm both his identity and the cause of death given the questionable circumstances surrounding Mr. Cotten’s death and the significant losses of the affected users. ”
A case full of doubts
Cotten died at age 30 as a result of Crohn’s disease. He died at the end of December 2018 during a trip to India and the news was kept secret for a few weeks. In January 2019, users complained that they could make cryptocurrency deposits, but not take out their money, since Cotten was the only one who knew the passwords.
After his death, the exchange closed. By the end of January, QuadrigaCX had about 115.00 users who kept 70 million Canadian dollars in FIAT and 180 million Canadian dollars in different cryptocurrencies, mostly Bitcoin, but the case went further when an Ernst & Young report affirmed that the QuadrigaCX wallets were empty and that the cryptocurrencies had been transferred to other exchanges. According to the consultant:
“Important volumes of cryptocurrencies were transferred outside the Quadriga platform to competitive exchanges in personal accounts controlled by Mr. Cotten. It seems that the user was registered in these exchanges and some circumstances used as a guarantee for a margin trading account established by Mr. Cotten.”
The report also reveals that Cotten created accounts under different aliases that he used to “operate within the platform, which resulted in inflated revenue figures, artificial operations with users and, ultimately, the withdrawal of cryptocurrencies deposited by users”, in addition to substantial funds were transferred to Mr. Cotten and other related parties.”
Cotten’s body was taken to Canada after his death and was buried there without any autopsy.
For more inri, although Cotten’s wife confirmed the death in a statement issued to Coindesk, medical records do not seem so clear. Coindesk took the death certificate of the hospital in India where he died and in him, Cotten’s name was misspelled. Also, the general manager of the company that managed the hospital had been convicted of financial fraud two months earlier. On the other hand, the doctor who examined Cotten told Vanity Fair that “we are not sure about the diagnosis,” but no autopsy was requested.
Finally, Cotten’s body was taken to Canada, where he was buried in mid-December last year. Jennifer Roberston’s wife, Cotten’s wife, has issued the following statement showing her skepticism about how an exhumation or autopsy could help the asset recovery process:
“Gerry died on December 9, 2018, in India: an independent investigation conducted by Globe & Mail confirmed it earlier this year, and should not be in doubt. While Ms. Robertson has helped affected Quadriga users In asset recovery and has cooperated fully with Ernst & Young’s research, it is unclear how exhumation or an autopsy to confirm the cause of Gerry’s death from complications derived from Crohn’s disease would further help the process of asset recovery. ”
The lawyers request that the process be completed before the first of 2020 due to “concerns about the state of decomposition” and attached in the substantive material letter (which has not been shared in the public letter) which, according to these, “still stands out more certainty around the question whether Mr. Cotten is dead. “