An ongoing legal battle between self-proclaimed Bitcoin inventor Craig Wright and
crypto Twitter personality Hodlonaut has reached its sixth day in a Norwegian court – leaving a trail of bizarre highlights as proceedings near a close.
For the better part of the decade Wright has claimed but failed to prove that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym used by the anonymous inventor of Bitcoin.
Wright's claim has fostered long-running scrutiny and even ridicule within cryptocurrency communities – notably by Twitter user Hodlonaut, otherwise known as Magnus Granath, who published a series of tweets in 2019 doubting the legitimacy of Wright's claims, and deeming him a "scammer" and "fraud".
These tweets, which are now being examined in consideration of Norwegian defamation law, have led to two simultaneous civil cases which largely involve whether Wright can substantiate his alleged identity as Satoshi – something that could theoretically be accomplished via cryptographic proof such as ownership of Satoshi's private keys.
In his opening statements of the Norwegian trial, however, Wright's lead attorney, Halvor Manshaus, told the court establishing Wright's ownership of Satoshi's private keys wouldn't be enough.
Furthermore, Wright later told the court cryptographic proof would be "incredibly difficult", on account of him having destroyed "key slices" required to access Satoshi Nakamoto's private keys.
How did Wright destroy this proof? He allegedly "stomped on the hard drive" which contained these key slices in May 2016, and further told the court destroying said hard drive was "the only way" to avoid being forced to prove his identity cryptographically.
Wright has claimed this destruction of cryptographic proof as an intentional move, telling Hodlonaut's lawyer, Ørjan Haukaas, he "didn't want to encourage the arguments that you need keys," and further stating "it's the most important thing I've done in my life."
Opposition points out red flags
Haukaas fired back against Wright's apparent destruction of proof, disavowing his claims as "not credible”.
Furthermore, Haukaas pointed out a range of alleged inconsistencies in Wright's submitted evidence thus far – especially concerning provided documents which are purportedly early drafts of proposition papers for bitcoin.
Digital forensics specialists, KPMG, was commissioned by Hodlonaut's legal teams to report on the alleged bitcoin whitepapers, and are said to have "found inconsistencies in meta-data, missing meta-data," and "fonts that were published after the document dating."
When prompted by the judge for clarification, the KPMG team stated, "The files have been made from the original bitcoin.pdf, but made to appear older than they are."
Manshaus, Wright's attorney, also cited a 2016 private signing session held by Wright in order to show witnesses he had access to Satoshi's private keys.
This evidence was also heavily scrutinised by Haukaas, who labelled the ceremony a "farce" and said more effective proof could have been offered by Wright.
The big question
While Wright's claims of being Satoshi are undoubtedly relevant to the case, Haukaas pointed out the question for the court isn't "whether he is Satoshi or not", but "whether he's entitled to restitution from Mr Granath."
Haukaas argued Hodlonaut's use of the word "fraud" was fitting, and that the right to use the word is protected by the Norwegian constitution.
He cited "a protection of the right of the individual to seek truth," and "to express oneself about untrue things," implying Hodlonaut's tweets should be protected regardless of Satoshi's identity.
If the Norwegian lawsuit plays out in Hodlonaut's favour, it would indicate his tweets are protected by a constitutional right to freedom of speech, and thus prevent Wright's UK defamation suit from going ahead.
The trial will continue on 21 September with a hearing said to include closing statements by Wright’s lawyers.