Investors hit as bitcoin exchange goes bankrupt

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LIKE other bitcoin evangelists, Ken Shishido is ready to write off the money he lost in the bankruptcy of Tokyo-based virtual currency exchange Mt. Gox as the price of revolutionising global finance.

“In the early days of the automobile, there were traffic accidents because you didn’t have traffic lights or pedestrian crossings,” he said hours after Mt. Gox said yesterday it had lost up to half a billion dollars of investor funds, including some of his own. “But we didn’t ban automobiles.”

Mr Shishido was one of about 10,000 investors in Japan who became creditors in Mt. Gox’s bankruptcy when the company capped a tumultuous period of weeks by filing for bankruptcy yesterday.

He lost about a tenth of his investment in bitcoin in Mt. Gox, he said, and expected none of that money to come back.

Early enthusiasts for the five-year-old crypto-currency were drawn to its revolutionary ideals of transparency and a lack of central or official control.

There was also a heady mix of geek chic – the currency is ‘mined’ through a process involving complex computer math – and laissez-faire Austrian economics.

Mt. Gox’s loss is eye-popping but so too is the number of creditors – 127,000 – in what had been the world’s biggest exchange.

That means the average trader lost the equivalent of £2,090 in the bankruptcy at current bitcoin prices, assuming no money is recovered in the court-supervised restructuring in Tokyo set to play out over the following months.

Bitcoin’s value spiked in April 2013 as the crisis-racked Cyprus government clamped down on withdrawals and seized deposits.