A former BitTorrent and Walmart software engineer Tong Zou, a Canadian citizen who moved to the U.S. when he was 23 years old, has lost all of his life savings on Canada’s largest crypto exchange QuadrigaCX.
On February 1, an affidavit filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court claimed that the CEO of QuadrigaCX Gerald Cotten passed away with the sole control over the exchange’s cold wallets containing $150 million worth of crypto.
We have thousands of wallet addresses known to belong to @QuadrigaCoinEx and are investigating the bizarre and, frankly, unbelievable story of the founder's death and lost keys. I'm not normally calling for subpoenas but if @rcmpgrcpolice are looking in to this, contact @krakenfx
— Jesse Powell (@jespow) February 3, 2019
Following the incident, it has become unlikely for the victims of the QuadrigaCX case to receive their money back.
How Zou Lost His Life Savings on a Crypto Exchange
In late 2018, after working for more than 7 years for major U.S.-based corporations, Zou decided to move back to Canada, settle down, and purchase an apartment.
Throughout his time in the U.S. as a highly regarded software engineer, Zou obtained $422,000 in savings.
“I was going to use that money for a deposit on an apartment, but now I can’t do that anymore. And now I’m currently searching for a job, so it’s kind of a bad time for me,” Zou said, speaking to Bloomberg in an interview.
Due to high conversion rates and fees involved in transferring his savings to Canada, Zou converted the funds to crypto, deposited to QuadrigaCX, converted it to Canadian dollars, and filed a withdrawal request in October 2018.
After four months, the QuadrigaCX incident was publicized, which industry experts including Kraken CEO Jesse Powell believe it to be “unbelievable,” Zou realized he may not be able to gain access to his savings again.
“It’s all my savings, so I’m just living on what little I have left and trying to start over. It pretty much took everything away from me. I wasn’t using it for trading — I just wanted to move my money over to my Canadian bank account. What I didn’t know was that my withdrawal would be pending or incomplete and it never got deposited in my bank account. I’ve been waiting four months so far,” he said.
So far, more than 115,000 users are said to have been affected by the case.
In recent weeks, researchers have claimed that QuadrigaCX may not even have the cold wallets the exchange claimed to have.
The Wall Street Journal reported that independent researcher James Edwards could not find any evidence to support the existence of a Bitcoin cold wallet allegedly containing $92.3 million worth of BTC.
Similarly, Taylor Monahan, the CEO of MyCrypto, said that she also could not link any of the main wallets of QuadrigaCX to an Ethereum cold wallet or a reserve.
“I’m seeing NO indication of Quadriga ever having cold / reserve wallets for ETH.”
One last thing. Here's an example of an address that *could* have been cold storage: 0x185a3c26a1a5deb37c7fd02007b0fde19db61df3
– It's empty now (sent to the Bitfinex deposit addr)
– If every "cold storage" is this size, thats 100+ accounts
– IT'S EMPTY NOW
— Taylor Monahan (@tayvano_) February 5, 2019
No Protection From Regulators
In a statement provided to Bloomberg, the British Colombia Securities Commission (BCSC) said that QuadrigaCX does not fall under the jurisdiction or the coverage of the commission.
“[BCSC] does not currently have any indication that Quadriga CX, the crypto asset trading platform, was trading in securities or derivatives or operated as a marketplace or exchange under British Columbia securities laws,” said the commission.
Given the ambiguous regulatory status of cryptocurrencies and digital asset exchanges in Canada, victims of the QuadrigaCX case could possibly not obtain their money back.