Bitcoin baron Karpeles to appeal guilty verdict in Japan: lawyer


Tokyo (AFP)

Mark Karpeles, the former high-flying boss of the MtGox bitcoin exchange, is appealing against a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence for data manipulation handed down earlier this month, his lawyer said Friday.

On March 15, the Tokyo District Court found the computer whizz from France guilty of tampering with electronic data but acquitted him on charges of embezzling millions from client accounts.

The sentence was suspended for four years.

"He was found guilty of manipulating electronic data but he thinks he is innocent, that is why he is contesting the decision" of the court, Kiichi Iino, one of his defence lawyers, told AFP.

Prosecutors had additionally claimed that Karpeles had embezzled some 341 million yen ($3 million) of clients' money and splashed it on a lavish lifestyle. They called for him to serve 10 years behind bars.

However, in throwing out these embezzlement charges, the judge said there was no financial damage done to MtGox and ruled that Karpeles did not intend to cause any damage.

MtGox was shut down in 2014 after 850,000 bitcoins (worth half a billion dollars at that time) disappeared from its virtual vaults.

Karpeles always claimed the bitcoins were lost due to an external "hacking attack" and later claimed to have found some 200,000 coins in a "cold wallet" -- a storage device not connected to other computers.

The scandal left a trail of angry investors, rocked the virtual currency community, and dented confidence in the security of bitcoin.

At one point, MtGox claimed to be handling around 80 percent of all global bitcoin transactions.

At its height in December 2017, the value of a single bitcoin was around $20,000. It has since slumped and is now worth just around $4,100.