Skip to main content

In this screenshot from Feb. 10, 2015, Gerald Cotten speaks with the hosts of DTL (Decentral Talk Live).YouTube/Decentral

The law firm representing users of bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange QuadrigaCX is requesting that the RCMP exhume the body of the company’s deceased founder, Gerald Cotten, and conduct an autopsy given the “questionable circumstances” surrounding his death and the significant financial losses incurred by users.

The letter from Miller Thomson LLP, dated Dec. 13 and sent on behalf of the exchange’s users, said an autopsy of the body is necessary to “confirm both its identity and the cause of death.”

“Counsel respectfully requests that this process be completed by Spring of 2020, given decomposition concerns,” according to the letter, which is addressed to the commercial crimes branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Ottawa.

The law firm also enclosed background material from publicly available information on the history of the company, Mr. Cotten and others that “further highlight the need for certainty around the question of whether Mr. Cotten is in fact deceased.”

An RCMP spokesperson declined to comment on the matter because it’s currently under investigation.

Mr. Cotten died at the age of 30 in December, 2018, as a result of complications from Crohn’s disease while on his honeymoon in India. Mr. Cotten and his widow, Jennifer Robertson, were in the country to attend the opening of an orphanage they had donated to, and shortly before the trip, Mr. Cotten signed his will. After his death, the body was returned to Canada and a funeral service was held in Halifax.

Around 76,000 users of the exchange, operated by parent company Quadriga Fintech Solutions Corp., were owed $214.6-million when Mr. Cotten died. He was the only one with access to the company’s cryptocurrency reserves, and operated the company mostly on his own. Ernst & Young Inc., the court appointed trustee overseeing the bankruptcy, has recovered around $33-million.

In June, Ernst & Young submitted a report to the court that found Mr. Cotten had moved customer funds into personal accounts, and made cryptocurrency trades on other exchanges that incurred substantial losses, depleting Quadriga’s reserves. He and Ms. Robertson also used company money to fund their lifestyle, which included travelling on private jets, and the couple built up around $12-million in assets.

A statement on Friday provided by Ms. Robertson’s lawyer, Richard Niedermayer, said the widow was heartbroken to learn of the request to have Mr. Cotten’s body exhumed.

"It is not clear how the exhumation or an autopsy to confirm the cause of Gerry’s death from complications arising from his Crohn’s disease would assist the asset recovery process further,” Mr. Niedermayer said.

In October, Ms. Robertson agreed to transfer nearly all of her assets, including multiple properties and a Cessna 400 airplane, to Ernst & Young, and said she was unaware of her husband’s “improper actions.”

The Globe and Mail reported in November that Mr. Cotten had a long history of internet-based scams, dating back to when he was 15. He went on to found Quadriga with Michael Patryn, who The Globe previously revealed had received a felony conviction in the United States for conspiracy to transfer identification documents, and had changed his name.

An official at the centre in India, where Mr. Cotten’s body was embalmed, dismissed suggestions that Mr. Cotten faked his death when The Globe visited in February. The police commissioner in Jaipur, the city where Mr. Cotten died, told The Globe he had no reason to be suspicious of the death.

The Nova Scotia Medical Examiner’s office called the decision to exhume a body “a very serious one.”

“If police felt there were grounds to exhume a body, they would typically contact a [medical examiner] with the rationale, and after extensive consultation between police and the [examiner], a joint decision would be made,” a spokesperson said in an email.

At least three other law-enforcement and regulatory agencies, including the Ontario Securities Commission and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, are investigating Quadriga, and the Canada Revenue Agency is examining the company’s tax returns.

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.