Dr Craig Steven Wright, the Australian named as the alleged creator of bitcoin, runs a company that spent tens of millions building the fastest computer in the Southern Hemisphere.
And it was working on blockchain technology — the software that underpins bitcoin.
His company was in the process of commercialising work on “smart contracts” and other applications using the blockchain when he disappeared.
He was also trying to revive another bitcoin company he set up that had fallen into administration, according to documents uncovered by Business Insider.
Dr Wright, an unknown Australian computer science and cyber security entrepreneur, was this week named by Wired and Gizmodo as the potential anonymous creator of bitcoin.
Somebody or a group of people using the name Satoshi Nakamoto invented bitcoin in 2009. Bitcoin is a type of digital currency that uses cryptography to move money and records it in a ledger without the need of a bank.
Dr Wright has disappeared in the wake of the accusations, scrubbing all digital records of himself and unreachable at his home.
But snooping by Business Insider has revealed some interesting details about what he was up to before he disappeared.
‘The fastest computer managed in the southern hemisphere’
A document dated May 11, 2015 on the website of Australian company DeMorgan — which Dr Wright is CEO of — shows the company was due for a tax refund worth A$54 million (£25.8 million, $39.1 million) for building a supercomputer to work on blockchain and cryptocurrency projects.
The blockchain is the software that underpins bitcoin, recording who owns what and enabling transactions. It’s the “Trust machine” in the system that has got everyone from Goldman Sachs to The Economist excited.
The document, since removed from DeMorgan’s website, says: “Under the scheme, companies with a turnover of less than A$20 million (£9.5 million, $14.5 million) are entitled to a cash refund of up to 45 cents per dollar spent on eligible research and development activity.”
That implies that DeMorgan spent at least A$120 million (£57.3 million, $86.9 million) developing the supercomputer, assuming the company received the full 45 cents per dollar rebate.
The computer is included in the TOP500, a list that ranks the 500 most powerful computers in the world, and the document states that the rebate, and other R&D refunds to related group companies, will allow DeMorgan to fine-tune its computer to “place us in the top 20 supercomputers globally and the fastest computer managed in the southern hemisphere.”
Both Wired and Gizmodo noted that Dr Wright had supercomputers, with Wired saying he had two — including Co1n, the most powerful privately owned supercomputer in the world.
The document on DeMorgan’s website goes on to say (emphasis ours):
Our CEO, Dr Wright is excited that this will allow us to start accelerating cryptocurrency and smart contract and property research to new levels in the southern hemisphere and to create opportunities in Australia that have not been imagined before
The rebates relates to work already done on “the development of smart contract and Blockchain-based technologies.” The statement says it hopes investment of the money can make “Australia a global leader in HPC [high-performance computer] technology as well as in the emerging crypto-currency financial fields.”
It would also help DeMorgan commercialise the blockchain research it had done, according to Dr Wright. He is quoted in the statement as saying:
This rebate will strengthen the group’s cash position and is an important source of funds for our development activities. We acknowledge the Government’s support of important R&D activities, and we look forward to the successful commercialisation of our Blockchain and smart contract systems research.
The document concludes by saying DeMorgan is:
A pre-IPO Australian listed company focused on alternative currency, next generation banking and reputational and educational products with a focus on security and creating a simple user experience. In the six years since the first company in the group started, we have completed several Bitcoin-based research projects that have lasted over six years and are now ready to start commercialisation
DeMorgan’s website has been taken down since its website and the related documents but you can see screengrabs of the release that Business Insider got before it was taken down below.
Meanwhile, it looks like Dr Craig Steven Wright was in the process of trying to revive another defunct bitcoin company he founded when he was allegedly unmasked by the press.
Hotwire, one of several companies set up by Dr Wright, was put into administration in June 2014 with debts of A$12 million (£5.7 million, $8.7 million) last year.
Wright owned just over 75% of the business, putting in A$23 million (£11 million, $16.6 million) worth of bitcoin. But it ran up debts of A$12 million (£5.7 million, $8.7 million) it couldn’t meet and was taken over by administrators McGrathNicol last year.
The company, which had 40 staff, was set up in 2013 to try and set up a bitcoin bank, according to Wired. McGrathNicol lists the business of Hotwire as: “Research and development on e-learning systems and e-payment systems and software. Hotwire acquired its software through a range of complex bitcoin-related transactions.”
A document dated two weeks ago from McGrathNicol shows DeMorgan is currently trying to reach a deal with its creditors to re-take control of Hotwire.
DeMorgan and the company directors are offering an immediate 10 cents on the dollar to creditors, with the promise of a further 20 cents on the dollar once a 5.5 million Australian dollar (£2.63 million, $3.9 million) tax rebate comes through. That rebate covers “complicated, related party transactions involving Bitcoin and software research and development.”
The company doesn’t have much in the way of assets, with McGrathNicol listing only a tax rebate claim and job contracts of “minimal realisable value.” And, as revealed by Business Insider Australia, the Australian tax office was challenging the tax rebate and fined Hotwire $1.7 million Australian dollars (£810,000, $1.23 million).
Like most of the tech journalists in the world, we’ve tried to reach Dr Wright for comment but have been unable to.
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