When crypto boss Gerald Cotten died in 2018 he took with him a fortune of up to $CA215 million ($A234 million) in bitcoin and other digital currencies.
The 30-year-old’s sudden death from complications of Crohn’s disease shocked the crypto world – but many believe he may have faked his demise in an elaborate “exit scam”.
Cotten took with him to the grave the keys that allowed access to the digital vault containing his investors’ cash that they had ploughed into trading platform Quadriga CX.
His death was kept secret for a month by the firm before it was finally announced – and it was found he had spent millions in investors’ money funding his own lavish lifestyle.
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Living a jetset life, he cruised the world on yachts, flew in private jets and investigators even released photos of piles of cash on his kitchen table.
Quadriga CX was left owing its 76,000 investors around $CA215million ($A234 million).
Criminal probes continue by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI as leading digital investing publication Coindesk branded his death as “crypto’s biggest mystery”.
So what exactly happened to Cotten, and is he still alive somewhere sitting on a mountain of stolen crypto?
Some have speculated his death was a clever ruse and there have been calls to have his body exhumed to prove once and for all if his death was faked.
His will was signed just two weeks before he and wife Jennifer Robertson travelled to India on their honeymoon.
He appointed his wife as the executor of his estate, handing over a $CA9 million ($A9.7 million) real estate empire, his yacht and his Cessna plane – and he even left his two dogs an inheritance of $CA100,000 ($A108,000).
Robertson has not been accused of any wrongdoing – and has denied any knowledge of her husband’s business dealings.
Cotten also took flying lessons, adding to the theory he was preparing for a life on the run. And his death certificate which was issued by Indian authorities, contains an incorrect spelling of his name, further fuelling the conspiracies.
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History of murky financial dealings
It is highly unusual for only a single executive to be the one with access to a company’s fund, further muddying the waters around what happened to Cotten.
Police believe that Quadriga CX was actually an wide-ranging Ponzi scheme – and Cotten would use fake accounts under the name “Chris Markay” to “buy” his customers bitcoin using fake cash.
He would then use this crypto to make investments himself on other digital exchanges as he furnished his own pockets at the expense of his investors, according to accounting firm Ernst & Young.
Despite presenting himself as mild-mannered and clean cut, Cotten was found to have had a history of possibly carrying out financial cons – starting when he was a teenager.
He is believed to have carried out Ponzi scheme scams…
Read more:Bitcoin boss may have faked death