The CEO of bitcoin exchange Mt Gox described what it was like to discover he had been hacked: 'It felt like I was about to die'

  • The CEO of hacked bitcoin exchange Mt Gox said that discovering he had lost £4.5 billion worth of customer money “felt like I was about to die.”
  • Karpeles told the BBC that running the bitcoin exchange was a “daily nightmare” and a “constant race.”
  • Karpeles has been released on bail from a prison in Japan.

Mark Karpeles, the CEO of hacked bitcoin exchange Mt Gox which lost £4.5 billion of its customers’ cryptocurrency, described in a new interview what it was like to realise that his exchange had been hacked.

“I would say it’s probably very close to like when you’re falling from a building,” Karpeles told BBC Radio 4’s “File On 4” show. “Obviously, the floor [was] getting close. It felt like I was about to die.”

Mt Gox was the world’s most popular bitcoin exchange, but Karpeles was unaware that hackers had infiltrated the company’s servers for over a year and exploited a weakness in order to siphon off bitcoins. Eventually, the hack was discovered in February 2014, and the company eventually went bankrupt, with customers still waiting to receive compensation for their lost bitcoin.

Karpeles said that running the bitcoin exchange, which started as a way to buy and sell “Magic: The Gathering” cards, was a “daily nightmare of dealing with banks, governments, people I never knew existed. Running Mt Gox was basically a constant race.”

The CEO was arrested by Japanese police and charged with embezzlement of Mt Gox company money and manipulation of data. The charge is over payments worth £1.7 million, BBC News reported. Karpeles denies the charges and claims the payments were legitimate loans. He has since been released on bail.

Elsewhere in the BBC Radio 4 show, former Mt Gox employee Thomas Glucksmann criticised Karpeles for obsessing over quiche, not bitcoin.

“He had an interesting passion for quiche,” Glucksmann said. “Quiche as in mushroom and onion quiche, or something … in the building that we moved to, Mark had also purchased space at the bottom of the building that was going to be the bitcoin cafe. And initially the concept was for that to be a showpiece for bitcoin where you’d come in, you’d buy your coffee with bitcoin.”

“But then he actually hired a chef who was a specialist in making quiches. He invested quite a large amount of money in an oven that was specifically built to cook quiche. It’s quite a big distraction from the whole story of Mt Gox.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2014 that Karpeles had spent $US35,000 (£25,200) on a Backen pastry oven and $US23,000 (£16,500) on a La Marzocco coffee machine for the cafe, which never opened.

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