Mark Karpelès, founder of UNGOX and former boss of the bitcoin exchange platform Mt. Gox in Tokyo on April 11, 2022 ( AFP / Charly TRIBALLEAU )
Mark Karpelès, former boss of the bitcoin trading platform s Mt. Gox, which went bankrupt in 2014 after a hack, wants to launch a rating agency in the cryptocurrency sector, where “a lot remains to be done in terms of security” , he recalls.
“I have known almost all the problems that an exchange platform can encounter (…), I have accumulated a lot of experience in cryptocurrencies. My goal is that this (the Mt. Gox affair, editor’s note ) does not happen again,” said this French entrepreneur residing in Japan on Monday at a press conference in Tokyo.
In early 2014, a bitcoin theft worth nearly $470 million at the time forced Mt. Gox to file for bankruptcy. This Japanese company was, at the time of the facts, the main global platform for transactions in this virtual currency.
The fall had been hard for Mr. Karpelès. The man who was once nicknamed the “bitcoin baron” then spent nearly a year in pre-trial detention in Japan, where the courts suspected him of embezzlement for personal enrichment.
Having always claimed his innocence, he was finally given a two and a half year suspended prison sentence in 2019, having been acquitted on the essentials but found guilty of manipulation of electronic data. His conviction was upheld on appeal in 2020.
“Much remains to be done in terms of security” in cryptocurrency transactions, Mr. Karpelès said on Monday, taking the example of the recent theft equivalent to some 600 million dollars of which the Ronin network, used for the online game Axie Infinity.
– Parallels with the Ghosn affair –
He plans to launch “Ungox” in the third quarter of 2022, an independent site assessing the risk levels of different platforms and projects in cryptocurrencies, with a free part and paid premium content, also imagining audit services for companies present. or wishing to enter this market, which is often considered to be very opaque.
The entrepreneur immediately ruled out the use of advertising revenue to “stay independent”, and estimated at three million dollars the need for financing for the first two years of the site, which would require “at least ten full-time analysts” .
The setbacks of Mr. Karpelès with the Japanese justice had attracted much less light than those of Carlos Ghosn a few years later, but the similarities between their respective legal disputes in Japan were numerous.
The fallen bitcoin “baron” had also met Mr. Ghosn twice in 2019, when the former big boss of Renault-Nissan was still on bail in Japan.
“I told him that in Japan, if you fight, you can get an acquittal but it takes years,” said Mr. Karpelès on Monday, who said he was “a little saddened” by the flight to Lebanon. by Mr. Ghosn at the end of 2019.
“I really wanted him to fight in Japan, because he had the means to do so and the impact (media, editor’s note) necessary to improve the” local judicial system, he added. From now on, it will probably be “much more difficult” to be released on bail in Japan, “especially for foreigners”, he still estimated.