A clearer picture is emerging of the young CEO, Gerald Cotten, at the centre of the mysterious demise of one of Canada’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, who died while on a visit to India, a Canadian media report said today.
Gerald Cotten, a Nova Scotia resident originally from Ontario died suddenly while in Rajasthan on December 9, leaving his virtual company, QuadrigaCX, without access to $145 million in Bitcoins and other digital assets.
His widow, Jennifer Robertson, has said in court documents that Mr Cotten, 30, was the only person with access to his laptop, which is thought to contain the digital keys to the so-called cold wallets containing the missing cryptocurrency.
The circumstances surrounding Mr Cotten’s death — and the way he conducted his business from the couple’s home in Fall River, Nova Scotia — has led to a flurry of speculation and allegations in internet chat rooms, The Canadian Press reported.
It said some former QuadrigaCX users have come forward to raise questions about the 250 million dollars in cash and cryptocurrency owed to 115,000 of them.
Mr Cotten signed his will on November 27, 2018 — less than two weeks before he died at a private hospital in Jaipur, the report noted.
In an application to probate the will, filed on December 21, 2018, Ms Robertson confirmed that the gross value of Mr Cotten’s personal property — all of which was left to her — was 9.6 million dollars. She was granted the right to administer his estate as executor on January 2, the report said.
The will specifically states that Ms Robertson was authorised to access his digital assets and “obtain, access, modify, delete and control (his) passwords and other electronic credentials.”
Ms Robertson, in an affidavit filed January 31, said she was not involved in the business, and she insisted Mr Cotten — as QuadrigaCX’s CEO and sole director — was the only person with access to the private digital keys.
The will includes a few details about Mr Cotten’s assets, but those items are limited to a section dealing with property that would have been bequeathed to friends and relatives should Ms Robertson die within 30 days of his death, the report said.
There was also a plan in place to provide 100,000 dollars to Mr Cotten’s in-laws to help them cover the costs of caring for the couple’s pet Chihuahuas, Nitro and Gully.
Court documents attached to the will include a statement of death from the JA Snow Funeral Home in Halifax, dated December 12, which says Mr Cotten died in Jaipur on December 9. The cause of death is not listed.
In her affidavit, Ms Robertson says she has been subjected to online threats, slanderous comments and speculation about Mr Cotten’s death, “including whether he is really dead.”
Ms Robertson said Mr Cotten was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 24, about a year after he co-founded QuadrigaCX with his partner Mike Patryn.
She said Mr Cotten died from complications linked to the disease, which disrupts digestion by causing inflammation of the bowels.
Fortis Escorts hospital in Jaipur issued a statement on Thursday confirming that Mr Cotten was admitted on December 8, 2018, and that he died from a cardiac arrest the next night.
Meanwhile, industry critics have come forward to say the QuadrigaCX debacle has proven to be a major embarrassment for Canada’s cryptocurrency industry, which includes more than a dozen exchanges across the country.
The British Columbia Securities Commission issued a statement Thursday saying it has been aware of QuadrigaCX’s operations since 2017. The agency said QuadrigaCX was not subject to regulation because it did not operate as a marketplace or exchange under securities laws of the province.