It can be said that truth is stranger than fiction. There are also times when truth might be a bit elusive. Recent reports in the news regarding the disappearance of a huge dollar amount of bitcoin funds - as well as actual dollar currency - could provide the story-line for an exciting “who-done-it” novel. First the writer would look at the facts or real events. Then...with a bit of “what ifs” and some flights of fancy an interesting plot could be developed.
Here are the facts as reported in the news. Gerald Cotten, age 30, QuadrigaCX's co-founder, chief executive and sole director, died suddenly in India from complications of Crohns disease on December 9th. His business partner, Michael Patryn...whose official name is Omar Dhanani, was convicted of fraud in California in 2005. Another man, Freddie Heartline, co-founded Bitcoin Co-op in Vancouver in 2013 with Cotten. Even though there have been many questions about Cotten's death, Heartline has come out to say there is no conspiracy...and that Patryn/Dhanani would not be involved in any kind of $200 million heist...since he has already been through too much in his career.
Cotten's widow, Jennifer Robertson, has stated to the courts that she does not have access to her deceased husband's laptop where the digital assets – worth about $190 million – are stored. There is also $70 million in cash involved. Gerald Cotten had a will drawn up less than two weeks before his death...leaving his assets to his wife.
After his death Robertson took her husband's name from the ownership of four properties and took out collateral mortgages on all four in favour of a trust called The Seaglass Trust where she is the sole trustee. The total value of the properties left by Gerald Cotten is $9.8 million. Jennifer Robertson changed her name from Jennifer Griffith in 2016. She has also been known as Jennifer Forgeron.
For a period of time QuadrigaCX has been granted creditor protection by the courts, allowing some stability to be brought to the situation. Cotten's laptop is in the hands of the Toronto West Detachment of the RCMP and an investigation is being conducted.
If I were to write a fictional version of this real life situation I would used bits and pieces of the lives of four people...the co-founder who dies young, the two partners, and the young widow. I would see a plan for a huge scam conceived by the four – almost simultaneously – as they listened to “Mitch” telling about his indictment for fraud, and noting the mistakes he made in getting caught. The name of the company might reflect four people...maybe Quad...then rig a possible hoax.
The group then figures out a way to go really big - and draw thousands of people into an investment scheme. The trick would be to focus on a type of investment that would not yet be regulated. As the funds roll in the good life begins. Some funds remain in the account so the business appears viable. However, the good life is expensive. It is now time to disband the company...via the major partner's demise...and therefore allow the funds to disappear. The password to the accounts would die along with the man.
Crohns disease would be a convenient way to go. However, this death must occur in a country where sanitation might be questionable...and the intestines compromised. Death could not occur in Canada since Crohns disease is treatable here. It might even be possible to bribe a physician to sign a certificate of death in a country where there is poverty. To move people past questioning why someone would travel to a place that might cause health problems, the main protagonist would make the trip for a compelling reason...to open an orphanage for children in need.
I can see a problem in writing this novel. There would be a tendency to simply repeat fact...all the things that really happened. These facts are so much more interesting and intriguing than any fiction a writer could dream up. Still...a book might be a possibility.
Shirley Hallee is a freelance writer living in Amherst. Her column appears weekly in the Amherst News.