This week, Bitcoin’s most despised man subjected himself to the Internet equivalent of a den of vipers: Reddit.
In a surprising post, entitled “I’m Mark Karpelès, ex-CEO of bankrupt MtGox. Ask me anything,” the French entrepreneur spontaneously made himself available to all comers. (Even outside of this spontaneous AMA, Karpelès, under the nickname MagicalTux, remains active on Reddit.
As Ars wrote a recent review of a documentary about Karpelès and the rise and fall of the Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, the bitcoin exchange quickly became the world’s most popular place to trade. Launched in 2010, by February 2014, the site pulled the plug and filed for bankruptcy. Mt. Gox blamed its huge losses on hackers who had pilfered 850,000 bitcoins (now worth more than $8 billion) by taking advantage of a major security flaw. At the time, Karpelès became the most hated person in the bitcoin world for letting it happen right under his nose.
His embezzlement trial in Japan is still ongoing.
In the film, the French-born Karpelès is not especially apologetic, but online, he seems to be making up for lost time. “At the end of the day, the methods I chose to try to get MtGox out of its trouble ended up being insufficient, insufficiently executed, or plain wrong,” he wrote in the Wednesday AMA. “I know I didn’t handle the last, stressful days of the outdrawn and painful Gox collapse very well. I can only be humble about that in hindsight. Once again, I’m sorry.”
He acknowledged concerns that he stands to profit from the eventual payouts to creditors, given that the exchange rate from bitcoins to Japanese yen is fixed at a rate far lower than what they are worth today.
“The way bankruptcy law works is that if there are any assets remaining after the creditors have been paid in full, then those assets are distributed to shareholders as part of the liquidation,” Karpelès continued. “That’s the only way any bankruptcy law can reasonably work. And yet, in this case, it produces an egregiously distasteful outcome in that the shareholders of MtGox would walk away with the value of over 160,000 bitcoin as a result of what happened. I don’t want this. I don’t want this billion dollars. From day one I never expected to receive anything from this bankruptcy. The fact that today this is a possibility is an aberration and I believe it is my responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen… I do not want to become instantly rich. I do not ask for forgiveness. I just want to see this end as soon as possible with everyone receiving their share of what they had on MtGox so everyone, myself included, can get some closure.”
He concluded by writing that he was “forever sorry for everything that’s taken place and all the effect it had on everyone involved.”
In response to other questions, Karpelès proclaimed: “I am innocent. Proving this in front of a Japanese court is a challenge but I’m not giving up.”
Most of his answers were in English, with the occasional French question. One user asked if he was ever recognized on the streets of Tokyo, where he still lives.
“Sometimes, but it’s relatively rare and always courteous,” he wrote.