Tue, Mar 04, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Mt. Gox launches customer hotline in wake of theft

AFP and Bloomberg, TOKYO

The Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange, which last week sought bankruptcy protection in Japan, opened a helpline for anxious customers yesterday after unveiling a massive loss in what it called theft through hacking.

The company said yesterday that it was looking into a criminal complaint.

Mt. Gox’s chief Mark Karpeles posted the announcement on the company Web site yesterday, outlining the events that resulted in insolvency and saying there was “high probability” theft was behind the disappearance of bitcoins.

He said a huge number of transactions must be investigated, but efforts are underway to bring Mt. Gox back into business to repay its debts.

The troubled exchange filed for protection with the Tokyo District Court on Friday, admitting that it had lost nearly half a billion US dollars worth of the digital currency.

The call center will respond to “all inquiries to Mt. Gox,” the Tokyo-based firm said on its Web site. “An overview of the situation should be published here shortly.”

A company lawyer said 750,000 customer bitcoins had gone missing, along with Mt. Gox’s own store of the currency, which she said was about 100,000 units.

That number of bitcoins would be worth about US$477 million, calculated against the price on the Coindesk exchange at 3am GMT yesterday.

Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles, who had not been seen in public for several days, re-emerged at a news conference on Friday to reveal the extent of the disaster and apologize to clients.

In the announcement on its Web site, which appeared in Japanese and English, Mt. Gox said the call center on +81-3-4588-3921 will be open weekdays from 1am GMT to 8am GMT.

However, the exchange is finding that some customers dialing in to its new call center are getting lost in translation.

Users of the Reddit social media Web site made posts yesterday complaining of being put on hold and talking to operators who only spoke Japanese.

After about 20 minutes, Bloomberg News was connected to an operator who said there are more than 10 people fielding calls, and some are able to deal with English speakers.

Fewer than 1 percent of the company’s 127,000 creditors are from Japan, Junko Suetomi, a lawyer from Baker & McKenzie who is representing Mt. Gox, told reporters at the Tokyo District Court on Friday.

One bitcoin user, Illinois resident Gregory Greene, last week filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in the US federal court in Chicago, seeking to represent US customers who lost money.

“I’ve got some hold music,” a Reddit user named “willdcc” posted yesterday. “It is quite soothing, but I still want my money back.”

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