The court-appointed monitor overseeing the search for millions of dollars lost by Canadian cryptocurrency exchange QuadrigaCX says an additional half a million dollars worth of bitcoin has gone missing.
Ernst & Young, which was appointed as monitor on Feb. 5 when the Nova Scotia Supreme Court granted Quadriga creditor protection, says the company “inadvertently” transferred the bitcoins on Feb. 6 to cold wallets that it is unable to access. Cryptocurrency exchanges often keep some of their assets in offline storage locations, referred to as cold wallets, to protect them from hackers.
The company previously said it has been unable to access its cold wallets since the death of chief executive officer Gerald Cotten, who, according to his wife, passed away from complications related to Crohn’s disease in December while he was travelling in India. Mr. Cotten was the only company employee who was able to access these wallets, which could hold as much as $180-million worth of missing cryptocurrency, the company has said. More than 115,000 users of QuadrigaCX, the trading platform owned and operated by Quadriga Fintech Solutions Corp., are collectively owed approximately $250-million.
Ernst & Young says in a report filed Tuesday that it was advised the company held the equivalent of $902,743 in cryptocurrency in “hot wallets” – which are cryptocurrency wallets that are connected to the internet – on its servers. The bulk of the funds, $701,285, was stored in the form of 154.12 bitcoins.
But on Feb. 6, the day after the court granted QuadrigaCX a 30-day stay shielding it from legal action by panicked customers, the company transferred 103 bitcoins, worth $468,675, to a cold wallet. Ernst & Young does not specify in the report which of the company’s contractors transferred the funds. It says it is working with Quadriga to try to retrieve the funds from the cold wallets “if possible.”
“Those 103 bitcoins were essentially thrown into the crypto-equivalent of a black hole, because QuadrigaCX apparently does not have the passwords to the cold wallets,” said Nick Chong, head of North America for Quoine, a Japanese company that operates an exchange called Liquid.
“I think that QuadrigaCX customers would expect that after the company had filed for creditor protection, what remained of the lost funds would be safeguarded with the help of the court and its appointed monitors, and that any movement of funds into or out of wallets would be tightly controlled.”
Ernst & Young says in its report that it has made arrangements to transfer the remaining cryptocurrency – which includes 51 bitcoins, $133,800 of ether, $36,961 of litecoin, $25,570 of bitcoin gold and a small quantity of bitcoin cash – into a cold wallet that it will retain itself, pending a court order.
The monitor has also secured various electronic devices owned or used by Mr. Cotten, including four laptops, four cellphones, three encrypted USB keys and the desktop computer from the home office at Mr. Cotten’s house in Nova Scotia.
Most of the devices were obtained from retired RCMP inspector Chris McBryan, now a consultant at McKalian Sensors Inc., who was hired by the company to try to hack into them to find the missing cryptocurrency. They are now being kept in a safety deposit box rented by Ernst & Young. The monitor says it is working with Mr. McBryan to figure out what steps he had taken with the devices, and what information he managed to extract from them, to determine its next moves.
Ernst & Young is also working with Quadriga to confirm the exact location of the exchange’s servers and make sure that data from those servers are saved.
The next court hearing will be on Feb. 14, to appoint a lawyer to represent the creditors.