Canadian crypto exchange QuadrigaCX owes its customers about $190 million after its founder died suddenly a year ago taking his encrypted access to the money with him.
News of his death became public only after Robertson and the QuadrigaCX filed for credit protection in Canadian courts, saying they were unable to access Cotten's encrypted account that held the assets.
The debt filing comes weeks after Robertson announced that Cotten had died - an event she described as "a shock to all of us".
Users have been complaining about "withdrawal issues and a lack of communication" from QuadrigaCX for months, the publication reported.
As of January 31, about 115,000 customers had balances signed up on the exchange.
Quadriga's troubles highlight the unique challenges of cryptocurrencies, Dean Skurka, vice-president of rival platform Bitbuy.ca, said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The cryptocurrencies the exchange dealt with were bitcoin, bitcoin gold, bitcoin cash, bitcoin cash SV, litecoin and ether. It warned that customers might take legal action against Quadriga if the problem continues.
Employees tried to access the cryptocurrency within QuadrigaCX's "cold" wallets, a system that stores cryptocurrencies offline to avoid hacking, such as on USB sticks or electronic hardware not connected to the internet. What is particularly problematic for Quadriga is that its CEO seems to be the only person who held the keys to those transactions. The couple owned a home outside Halifax.
QuadrigaCX says it should be able to pay back its creditors, if the exchange can avoid bankruptcy and access said funds from the now lost cold wallets.
Robertson has her husband's laptop, but she doesn't know the password.
Another wrote in French: "I have sent lots of emails, but I just get automatic responses, I'm not even able to get my crypto out".
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Cotten held "sole responsibility for handling the funds and coins", and no other members of the QuadrigaCX team could access the money, she said in an affidavit on January 31. Nor can Vancouver-based Quadriga CX pay the C$70 million in cash they're owed.
"There's been some limited success", he said, adding that the computer has been examined by a retired RCMP officer with expertise in encryption technology.
"This is a tough lesson learned".
"This is a tough lesson learned", investor Elvis Cavalic of Calgary, Alberta told the CBE, after he realized he couldn't withdraw his investment.
Several lawyers who said they appeared on behalf of creditors attended the hearing. "I'm kind of preparing for the worst".
Since the 30-year-old Mr. Cotten's death, his widow, Jennifer Robertson, has hired an IT expert.
The CEO's death certificate is attached to Robertson's affidavit.
"If this can not be done in an orderly fashion, many, if not all users, may suffer damage", she wrote.
The board of directors of QuadrigaCX also applied for creditor protection, with Ernst & Young expected to be appointed on Tuesday to oversee the proceedings. Yet, in the analysis performed by ZeroNoncense through the blockchain, there is no funds that QuadrigaCX claimed to have.