Judge in COPA Lawsuit Against Craig Wright Admits New Evidence, Orders Wright to Pay Additional £800,000 to Developers, and Sets New Trial Date

On December 15, the UK High Court held a Pre-Trial Review (“PTR”)  in the Identity Trial scheduled for early 2024 to which the Developers are a party. The Identity Trial will answer the question of whether Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin. 

The PTR  came on the heels of  COPA’s submission of 50 pieces of evidence showing that Wright fraudulently altered documents on which he relies for his claim to be Satoshi. 

During the PTR, Wright requested to rely on additional documents as evidence in support of his claim to be Satoshi and to postpone the trial—originally scheduled for January 15, 2024—by a year or more to allow additional time to prepare. 

On Wednesday, the judge in the COPA lawsuit handed down his judgment on several issues from the PTR. The highlights of the Judgment and Order are below. 

The judge permitted Wright to submit 97 new documents as reliance documents

“The 97 documents…are a selection from two USB drives which Dr. Wright says he discovered in a drawer at his house on 15 September 2023…In view of the emphasis placed on the importance of the LaTeX files on this application, it is moderately surprising to say the least that Dr Wright did not seek to rely on these files many months ago. His failure to do so cannot be blamed on the supposedly poor advice he received from previous solicitors that such files were not disclosable because, even long before he had to consider his obligations as regards disclosure, Dr Wright must have been aware of what he now says is the unique nature of the LaTeX files and the fact, on his case, that the Bitcoin White Paper was originally written in LaTeX.

Although COPA put forward a number of criticisms of the way in which the Additional Documents came to light and made accusations of delay in the identification and production of these documents, I highlight two particular submissions which COPA made. First, that ‘there is strong evidence that Dr Wright has fabricated his account of the discovery of the New Drives’ and second, ‘There is strong evidence that the BDO Drive and the material it contains have been manipulated and subject to backdating.’ 

These are serious allegations of deliberate fabrication and forgery of evidence…I do not think it would be right to determine any issues of this nature at this hearing (particularly in circumstances where Dr Wright has not yet responded to these allegations), and I do not do so. I consider it is far better to examine the allegations from a neutral standpoint and consider how they can be brought to and considered at a fair trial. So I agree with Dr Wright that these allegations must be considered at trial. Overall, I am left in no doubt that Dr Wright should have permission to rely on some or all of the Additional Documents, on certain conditions.

If Dr Wright wishes to lessen the amount of work that he and his experts must undertake in order to be ready for trial, I consider he has it within his power to do so, by making an appropriate selection from the Additional Documents of those he considers central to his case. If, however, he wishes to rely on all the Additional Documents, he can do so in view of the seriousness of the allegations of fabrication and forgery levelled against his case.” 

The judge postponed the COPA trial by 3 weeks. 

“COPA and the Developers prepared and served their evidence in answer to the application speedily on 7th December, and left Dr Wright in no doubt that his Additional Documents raised similar issues as to fabrication of evidence, forgery, manipulation of metadata etc as he was already facing. The sense of urgency displayed by COPA and the Developers in this and other aspects of this case was entirely appropriate in view of the circumstances. In my view and despite an impressive legal team on Dr Wright’s side, a suitable sense of urgency appeared to me to be largely absent. 

The Developers submitted that the consequences of an adjournment would be grave and unacceptable to them. The principal point was that the present proceedings weigh heavily on the individuals, along with the related Tulip Trading claim. In their BTC Core Claim Form, the BTC Core Claimants estimated the value of the claim ‘could be in the hundreds of billions of pounds’ – this in circumstances where the Developers do not stand to gain anything even if they win and even in that event, the Developers stand to be considerably out of pocket since it is well-known that litigants are very unlikely to recover all their costs even if they are awarded on the indemnity basis.

There is considerable force in this point, particularly bearing in mind some of the unpleasant threats which have been made by Dr Wright on social media against certain of the Developers, and never, so far as I am aware, withdrawn let alone been the subject of any apology. Whilst these threats have been mentioned to me before in general terms, I have gained a better understanding of them from the witness statement of Mr Lee, a board member of COPA, who describes the chilling effect of Dr Wright’s threats on the willingness of individuals to get involved in the maintenance of parts of the Bitcoin system of which Dr Wright does not approve. I refer to Dr Wright’s explicit threats published on social media to bankrupt developers, destroy their families, imprison them and even defenestrate one individual (the latter threat made even more graphic by the accompanying photograph of a man who appears to have just been defenestrated from a high building).

I have reached the conclusion that a fair trial can take place if the trial is set to commence on 5th February 2024…In reaching this conclusion, I am not persuaded that Dr Wright’s substantial team cannot complete all the evidence they wish to present at trial in a suitable timetable down to 5th February.”

The judge granted the Developers’  security application and ordered Wright to pay an additional £800,000 in security by January 5, 2024. 

“In my view, there remains a considerable risk that if Dr Wright loses the Joint Trial, the Claimants will not be able to pay the Developers’ costs. Mr Bergin KC relied on the substantial sums which have been put up by way of security already in support of a submission that the risk was minimal. I disagree. There is evidence that Dr Wright is being funded in these actions by Mr Calvin Ayre and there is no guarantee that Mr Ayre will be willing to pay the Developers’ costs if Dr Wright loses the Joint Trial.

So far as the quantum of security is concerned, the Developers provided me with two sets of figures, the second set adjusted to reflect the guideline hourly rates as opposed to Macfarlanes’ hourly rates. The Developers also submitted that if Dr Wright fails to establish that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, it is ‘almost certain’ that he would be ordered to pay costs on the indemnity basis. In view of the allegations of fabrication and forgery which have already been levelled against Dr Wright, the risk of indemnity costs being awarded is very real if Dr Wright fails on the Identity Issue, albeit I emphasise I form no view as to whether those allegations will succeed or fail.

In the circumstances I propose that the Developers should have total security for their participation in the Joint Trial in the sum of £900,000. They already have £100,000 of that total, so I order the provision of further security for the costs of the Developers in the sum of £800,000.”

The judge also ordered Wright to pay the £65,000 for COPA’s costs in relation to ASD expert evidence. 

“The fact that Dr Wright has a disability due to ASD was first mentioned at the CCMC. COPA’s position throughout was that Dr Wright should produce a report proposing the adjustments which might be required and it would see if they could be agreed.

After a considerable period, Dr Wright finally produced the report from Professor Fazel. It proposed a set of adjustments at the extreme end of the scale, including the provision of all cross-examination questions in advance.

COPA point out that Dr Wright had previously obtained reports from two other experts who did not propose the extreme adjustments of Professor Fazel. COPA submit that Professor Fazel only proposed his set of adjustments because he had not been provided with any evidence of Dr Wright’s previous performance under cross-examination (an omission pointed out at the September 2023 hearing). After seeing footage of Dr Wright being cross-examined in Oslo in the Granath litigation, Prof Fazel (quite properly) changed his position.

In their Joint Statement, Professor Fazel and Professor Craig agreed on a far more limited set of adjustments required for Dr Wright when giving evidence at trial namely, (a) clear timetabling of his evidence; (b) access to the LiveNote Screen; and (c) a pen and paper to write questions. They agree that the more extreme measures originally suggested by Prof Fazel, such as provision of questions / topics in advance and avoiding complex or tag questions, are not justified.

In those circumstances it seems I should order Dr Wright to pay COPA’s costs in relation to the ASD expert evidence after 21st September 2023. I so order.”

The forthcoming COPA trial is focused on the issue of whether Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto. This “identity issue” is also central to two lawsuits Wright brought against a dozen Bitcoin Core developers in the UK.  

Click here to learn more about how the COPA trial will impact these lawsuits and how the Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund is supporting the developer defendants.