Craig Wright wins bitcoin libel case but gets only £1 as UK judge says he lied

Craig Wright, self declared inventor of bitcoin, center, arrives at federal court with his attorney Andres Rivero, right, in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., on Friday, June 28, 2019.
Enlarge / Craig Wright, self declared inventor of bitcoin, center, arrives at federal court with his attorney Andres Rivero, right, in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., on Friday, June 28, 2019.

In 2016, when Craig Wright promised to provide “extraordinary proof” that he is bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, he was met with a lot of sincere skepticism. Some had doubts when Wright fabricated evidence, and thus, many weren’t surprised when he failed to bring forward the supposed proof he promised. Instead, he apologized for lacking the “courage” to share any real evidence. Then, in 2018, he committed perjury, further inflaming public perceptions that he could be a fraud.

By 2019, Wright began fighting back at critics by threatening to take them to court for defamation. Among Wright’s most vocal skeptics is bitcoin expert Peter McCormack, and he became the first target for Wright’s litigiousness. In 2019, Wright sued McCormack for libel for tweeting things like “Craig Wright is a fucking liar, and he’s a fraud; and he’s a moron; he is not Satoshi.” Wright expected that a successful libel lawsuit against McCormack would finally prove he founded bitcoin; however, it did not.

This week, a verdict was delivered by a UK high court—where Justice Martin Chamberlain wrote that “the identity of Satoshi is not among the issues” determined. The libel lawsuit, in the end, was a victory for Wright, awarding damages for “serious harm” McCormack caused to his reputation, but it also proved that, once again, Wright is seemingly willing to lie about evidence in his public fight to be acknowledged as bitcoin’s creator.

In the lawsuit, Wright claimed that McCormack’s tweets, as well as a YouTube video discussion, had done serious damage to Wright’s reputation. He said he had academic papers accepted and then rejected, invitations to conferences revoked, and his chances of becoming a magistrate in Surrey spoiled. But then, he once again was found to have lied about evidence supporting his claims, and a UK judge decided it would be “unconscionable” to award Wright anything but nominal damages for harm done to his reputation. For all that time in court, yesterday Wright was awarded just £1, and The Guardian reports that he walks away with an even more tarnished reputation.

Because Wright “advanced a deliberately false case and put forward deliberately false evidence until days before trial, he will recover only nominal damages,” wrote Justice Chamberlain.

Despite the scant damages collected, the lawsuit could serve to silence more critics who don’t have time and resources to go to court over their social media posts, which McCormack claimed in the disputed tweets was Wright’s actual motivation for suing.

The judge is still deliberating how much to award to cover costs of both legal teams. Wright’s legal team did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment. McCormack’s legal team told Ars that they’re “very pleased with the findings that the judge has reached.”

McCormack tweeted that he was also “very pleased” with the court’s findings, thanking his lawyers and the judge. He says he will have more people to thank once the case is officially closed.

Wright has not tweeted any response as of this writing. The Guardian reports that Wright responded with this statement: “I intend to appeal the adverse findings of the judgment in which my evidence was clearly misunderstood. I will continue legal challenges until these baseless and harmful attacks designed to belittle my reputation stop.”

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