Bitcoin inventor gets immunity from prosecution in exchange for relinquishing his cryptographic keys

Photo The inventor of Bitcoin has been granted immunity from prosecution after his arrest in 2017, ending a year-long standoff between the government and the currency’s inventor. In a federal court in Manhattan on…

Bitcoin inventor gets immunity from prosecution in exchange for relinquishing his cryptographic keys

Photo

The inventor of Bitcoin has been granted immunity from prosecution after his arrest in 2017, ending a year-long standoff between the government and the currency’s inventor.

In a federal court in Manhattan on Monday, Satoshi Nakamoto — as the creator is known — agreed to turn over to the government the cryptographic keys that would make bitcoin an actual asset, in exchange for immunity from the case against him. The money the government held in escrow, which was worth $54 billion at the time of the arrest, would also be released in exchange.

The deal will likely be seen as a big win for Nakamoto, a task force led by the U.S. Justice Department originally attempted to prosecute him for allegedly hoarding the digital currency and fraudulently impeding a change in bitcoin’s rules, in order to legitimize the currency.

The civil forfeiture case was taken up after investigations revealed that Nakamoto no longer lived in the United States — but the question still lingered over whether he was behind the computer code powering bitcoins.

The clerk-treasurer of the Bitcoin Foundation, Charlie Shrem, also had a hand in bitcoin’s development, and has since pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering and drug trafficking. Shrem reportedly attempted to stave off prosecution by dropping the money laundering aspect of the investigation, but was only able to persuade the government to drop its asset forfeiture case.

The agreement brought both praise and anger from bitcoin enthusiasts. Influential Bitcoin backer Mike Hearn offered a wry response on Twitter: “#bitcoin???? Yeah, so how much did #Nakamoto pay for his stake in that lawsuit?! Now he could take off. Of course, US state agents could find Nakamoto and arrest him for this theft and transfer but that’s probably pretty unlikely.”

Bitcoin started its rise to prominence in 2009, and grew exponentially in popularity — and value — as a result of increased interest from investors. By the end of 2014, the digital currency was valued at more than $1,000. In 2017, bitcoin rose to more than $20,000 per coin. Today, it’s trading around $9,000.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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