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February 6, 2019updated 07 Feb 2019 4:33pm

QuadrigaCX timeline: Every twist and turn in the bizarre crypto scandal

By Robert Scammell

Once Canada’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, QuadrigaCX is now at the centre one of the biggest – and perhaps most bizarre – scandals to hit the blockchain industry.

In December last year, CEO and co-founder Gerald Cotten died unexpectedly while visiting an orphanage in India. The shockwaves from his death have brought the spotlight on a company that was already embroiled in financial disputes.

Recently, QuadrigaCX announced that Cotten took the password to the exchange’s ‘cold storage’ – an offline wallet designed to protect cryptocurrency from hackers – to the grave.

With no other person able to access the wallet, the exchange says it has lost access to cryptocurrency worth around $137m.

“If reports of the protections surrounding these keys are correct, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to recover the funds,” Ben Schmidt, CSO at blockchain cybersecurity platform PolySwarm told Verdict.

Now, more than 115,000 of Quadriga’s 336,000 registered users are owed funds. The total number owed is reported to be around $190m.

However, some in the cryptocurrency community, including QuadrigaCX customers, have taken to Reddit and Twitter to speculate on “suspicious” circumstances surrounding Cotten’s death.

Many are now questioning the official version of events, with some going as far as suggesting that the allegedly inaccessible cold wallet never existed.

Verdict has created a QuadrigaCX timeline of notable events in the exchange’s history in an attempt to shed some light on a complex story that is rife with theories.

As the story continues, we will update the timeline with new developments. If we have missed any important details in the QuadrigaCX timeline, or if you have any information about the case, get in touch via robert.scammell@verdict.co.uk.

QuadrigaCX timeline

November 2013

March 2015 

  • Parent company Quadriga Fintech looks to take QuadrigaCX public, but the move doesn’t materialise.

29 February 2016

  • QuadrigaCX directors Anthony Milewski and Lovie Horner resign.

8 March 2016

  • British Columbia Securities Commission issues QuadrigaCX with a cease trade order, banning the exchange from selling securities. The order states Quadriga did not submit “annual audited financial statements for the year ended October 31, 2015” or file a “Management’s Discussion and Analysis” for the same period.

18 March 2016

  • Director Bill Filtness and chief financial officer Natasha Tsai resign.
  • Gerald Cotten is now the sole executive at QuadrigaCX.

June 2017

January 2018 

  • Financial difficulties begin.

March 2018 

  • QuadrigaCX customers reveal they have been experiencing delays withdrawing funds for “months”.

April 2018

October 2018

  • QuadrigaCX disputes a $19.6m sum with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). The CIBC says it is unable to determine the real owners of the funds.
  • Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail reports that QuadrigaCX has been experiencing difficulties accessing $16.3m of its fund since January 2018.

9 November 2018

27 November 2018 

  • Cotten files a will that leaves all his assets to his wife, Jennifer Robertson, naming her as the sole benefactor and executor to his estate.

9 December 2018

  • QuadrigaCX co-founder and CEO Gerry Cotten dies age 30 while building an orphanage in India as a result of complications from Crohn’s disease, according to a statement made over a month later by the company.

14 January 2019

  • QuadrigaCX formally announces the death of Gerry Cotten.
  • More Reddit users post that they are having trouble accessing funds on QuadrigaCX

28 January 

  • QuadrigaCX goes offline for “maintenance”, according to the exchange.

31 January

  • Cotten’s widow, Jennifer Robertson, submits an affidavit with Novia Scotia Supreme Court that states her husband was the only person who had the passwords granting access to the laptop cold storage containing around $137m in cryptocurrencies.
  • QuadrigaCX files for creditor protection in a step to avoid bankruptcy.

4 February

5 February 

  • An Indian government-issued death certificate appears to corroborate QuadrigaCX’s statement, but the certificate misspells ‘Cotten’ as ‘Cottan’.
  • Canadian Apex Court appoints Ernst & Young to investigate the lost funds during a preliminary hearing.
  • Research conducted by the editor of blog Zerononcence cannot find evidence for the existence of a QuadrigaCX Bitcoin cold wallet.

6 February 

  • The Canadian Supreme Court grants QuadrigaCX a court order for creditor protection, giving the exchange 30 days of initial protection from its creditors while it comes up with a ‘Plan of Arrangement’.

Due to the rapidly changing nature of this story, we will be updating this timeline as the case develops. If you have been affected by the QuadrigaCX story or have any information, please get in touch via robert.scammell@verdict.co.uk. 

Read more: Seven blockchain startups going beyond cryptocurrency

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