Gerald Cotten, 30-year old CEO and co-founder of Quadriga, Canada’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, has died of complications arising from Crohn’s Disease while traveling in India, locking away $145 million of bitcoin and other digital assets belonging to customers and users. The company has raised the alarm about its inability to gain access to his computer and the passwords to the company’s digital accounts.
Many of the digital currencies held by Quadriga are stored offline in accounts known as “cold wallets,” a way of protecting them from hackers. Cotten appears to have been the only person with access to the wallets, according to court documents cited by Canadian media and posted online by cryptocurrency news site CoinDesk.
Cotten’s death has plunged Quadriga into crisis forcing it to file for creditor protection and left it struggling to figure out how to refund more than 100,000 of its users.
“For the past weeks, we have worked extensively to address our liquidity issues, which include attempting to locate and secure our very significant cryptocurrency reserves held in cold wallets,” Quadriga said in a statement on its website. “Unfortunately, these efforts have not been successful.”
The laptop that Cotten used to run the currency exchange is encrypted and Cotton’s widow has denied knowledge of the password.
“I do not know the password or recovery key,” she said. “Despite repeated and diligent searches, I have not been able to find them written down anywhere.”
The company has hired tech experts in an attempt to hack into Cotten’s laptop and other devices to retrieve the missing cryptocurrencies, but Robertson warned that at least some of them “may be lost.”
Quadriga also owes about 70 million Canadian dollars ($53 million) in cash that it’s unable to pay back, she said, citing difficulties accessing funds through the traditional banking system.