As soon as Gizmodo began its investigation into evidence that shows Craig Wright, an Australian academic and serial entrepreneur, claimed to have invented Bitcoin, he started to cover his tracks. After Gizmodo and Wired published separate stories yesterday, Wright’s digital existence has almost completely vanished.
Three days before Gizmodo’s story went up, our correspondent in Sydney approached the tony (if a bit unkempt) suburban home shared by Craig Wright and Ramona Watts, his wife and director of his umbrella company DeMorgan Ltd. When asked about Wright, Watts refused to provide anything but a coy smile. On two separate occasions after that visit, our Australian reporter waited outside the Wright/Watts residence for several hours from dawn to late morning — on one occasion, cars were parked in the home’s driveway, though no one would answer the door. Yesterday, hours before our story was published, those cars were gone and there were no signs of life.
About twelve hours later, reports in The Guardian and Reuters said that Australian federal law enforcement had swarmed the home, rummaging through the belongings inside with particular attention paid to an adjacent garage. Wright’s offices at DeMorgan were also raided:
Three police workers wearing white gloves could be seen searching the garage, which contained gym equipment.
A man who identified himself as the owner of the house, Garry Hayres, told Reuters that Wright and his family had lived there for a year, and were due to move out on Dec. 22 to move to Britain.
Hayres said that Wright had a “substantial computer system set-up” and had attached a “three-phase” power system to the back of the house for extra power.
Police personnel at Wright’s office in nearby Ryde wore shirts tagged “Computer Forensics”. A fellow business tenant at the building, who declined to be named, said Wright had not been seen there in the past week.
The whereabouts of Wright and Watts are unknown, but a neighbour reached by a Guardian reporter makes it seem like they could be on their way out of Australia by now: “A neighbour said a huge container arrived about a month ago, followed by a small remover’s truck in the first week of December.”
Wright’s substantial digital presence is also almost entirely gone. His Amazon review profile, including a curmudgeonly review of Digital Gold: The Untold Story of Bitcoin, is still online. But Wright’s main blog, gse-compliance.blogspot.com, has been deleted entirely, though Gizmodo still retains a full archive of his writings. In it, Wright chronicles (across a span of six years) everything from the joy of the outdoors, to the pains of getting broadband internet in the countryside, to the intricacies of computer cryptography, and the grandeur of his own ego. It was an obelisk built to Craig Wright, and now it’s gone.
His (active, pugnacious) Twitter account is gone:
Wright’s other Google-related accounts on YouTube and Google+ have also been deleted completely, meaning we’ve lost the several inexplicable videos Wright had uploaded of himself going to town on a rowing machine:
Gone too is Wright’s personal Facebook account, where he went by the name “Prof. Faustus,” perhaps a reference to the academic of German legend who made a pact with Satan in exchange for infinite knowledge.
But why, if Dr. Craig Wright is one of the greatest living minds in cryptography, why would he flee his own home and shy away from global attention? Maybe he feared media scrutiny (or violent Bitcoin thieves). Or maybe he’s a con man behind one of the longest, most elaborate scams in recent history: transcribed meetings with Wright’s attorney and the Australian Tax Office (ATO), if authentic, suggest that Wright was fighting for favourable conditions under which to repatriate an enormous sum of Bitcoins. If the ATO had reason to believe an Australian citizen was squirrelling away hundreds of millions of dollars out of reach of the tax authority, they would not be pleased. If the Australian police had reason to believe he was attempting to deceive the government as part of a plan to evade taxes, they would be doubly displeased — maybe even enough to tear up his house.