Sat, Mar 08, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Man denies report he created bitcoin

COIN FLIP:An engineer linked to the widely traded digital currency rebutted Newsweek’s report, while Japan edged closer to regulating bitcoin transactions

AP, AFP, LOS ANGELES and TOKYO

Dorian Nakamoto, identified by Newsweek magazine as the founder of bitcoin, leaves his home in Temple City, California, on Thursday.

Photo: Bloomberg

Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto said on Thursday that he is not the creator of bitcoin, adding further mystery to the story of how the world’s most popular digital currency came to be.

The denial came after Newsweek published a 4,500-word cover story claiming Nakamoto is the person who wrote the computer code underpinning the digital currency.

In an exclusive two-hour interview with The Associated Press, Nakamoto, 64, denied he had anything to do with it and said he had never heard of bitcoin until his son told him he had been contacted by a Newsweek reporter three weeks ago.

Nakamoto acknowledged that many of the details in Newsweek’s report are correct, including that he once worked for a defense contractor, and that his given name at birth was Satoshi. However, he strongly disputed the magazine’s assertion that he is “the face behind bitcoin.”

“I got nothing to do with it,” he said, repeatedly.

Newsweek stands by its story. Newsweek writer Leah McGrath Goodman, who spent two months researching the story, said: “I stand completely by my exchange with Mr Nakamoto. There was no confusion whatsoever about the context of our conversation — and his acknowledgment of his involvement in bitcoin.”

The magazine pulled together its hypothesis on the creator’s identity by matching Nakamoto’s name, educational history, career, apparent antigovernment bent and writing style to the supposed creator of bitcoin. It also quoted Nakamoto’s estranged wife and other family members who said they were not sure whether he is the creator.

Since bitcoin’s birth in 2009, the currency’s creator has remained a mystery. The person — or people — behind the digital currency’s inception have been known only as “Satoshi Nakamoto,” which many observers believed to be a pseudonym.

After Newsweek posted the story on its Web site on Thursday, Nakamoto said his home was bombarded by phone calls. By midmorning, a dozen reporters were waiting outside the modest two-story home on the residential street in Temple City, California, where he lives. He emerged shortly after noon saying he wanted to speak with one reporter only and asked for a “free lunch.”

During a car ride and then later over sushi at The Associated Press bureau in downtown Los Angeles, Nakamoto spoke at length about his life, career and family, addressing many of the assertions in Newsweek’s piece.

Nakamoto said he is a native of Beppu, Japan, who came to the US as a child in 1959. He speaks English and Japanese, but his English is not flawless.

Several times during the interview, Nakamoto mistakenly referred to the currency as “bitcom,” and as a single company, which it is not. He said he has never heard of Gavin Andresen, a leading bitcoin developer who told Newsweek he had worked closely with the person or entity known as “Satoshi Nakamoto” in developing the system, but that they never met in person or spoke on the telephone.

When shown the original bitcoin proposal that Newsweek linked to in its story, Nakamoto said he did not write it, and said the e-mail address in the document was not his.

Asked if he was technically able to come up with the idea for bitcoin, Nakamoto responded: “Capability? Yes, but any programmer could do that.”

Nakamoto said he believes someone either came up with the name or specifically targeted him to be the fall guy for the currency’s creation.

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