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Friday roundup - 30 August 2019


Where IS the bitcoin? Is the gold real or fake? Yes, folks, these are the things that ordinary people start to think about when they realise that their best bet nowadays with their savings is to stick them in a bank that charges you for holding on to your money and then gives you back less than you gave it. Gold is the backstop of the financial world, reassuringly present and stored by the tonne under the streets of Manhattan, London and Zurich. Swiss vaults are the ultimate old school way to stash money that will very likely still be there after a recession or an earthquake. But Swiss gold refiners have started to notice fake bars in circulation. These fakes are especially hard to detect as it's not fake gold: only the markings are faked. "The latest fake bars ... are highly professionally done," said Michael Mesaric, the chief executive of refinery Valcambi, told Reuters that the latest fake bars are highly professionally done. "He said maybe a couple of thousand have been found, but the likelihood is that there are 'way, way, way more still in circulation. And it still exists, and it still works'." The bars have, according to Reuters, been turning up in the vaults of JPMorgan Chase, one of the world's major gold brokers. "In the last three years, bars worth at least $50 million (£41 million) stamped with Swiss refinery logos, but not actually produced by those facilities, have been identified by all four of Switzerland's leading gold refiners and found in the vaults of JPMorgan Chase & Co., one of the major banks at the heart of the market in bullion, said senior executives at gold refineries, banks and other industry sources."

Today's Alphaville blog in the FT references Monty Python's Life of Brian in the headline and ends up with a link to Back to the Future. What's not to like? Craig Wright, widely seen in the bitcoin world as an intelligence asset sent to wreak havoc and sow chaos, has seen his reputation shredded after a US judge found him guilty of perjury this week. (That's Wright in the FT Alphaville picture, looking like Mr Smug himself, and that's even before the judge wrote that Wright's behaviour was deceptive, fraudulent, false etc.) Wright and early bitcoin evangelist Roger Ver have been doing their best to steer bitcoin newbies towards other versions of bitcoin such as bitcoin cash, and in Wright's case bitcoin SV, which is meant to stand for bitcoin Satoshi's Vision. Wright, who has claimed on several occasions to be Satoshi Nakamoto, eponymous inventor of bitcoin, was this week ordered to hand over half of his bitcoin holdings to the family of the late David Kleinman, an engineer whose family say helped Wright mine early bitcoins now worth up to five billion dollars. Judge Bruce Reinhart disagreed. "Apparently, dead men tell no tales, but they (perhaps) send bonded couriers. See John Dryden, "The Spanish Fryar or The Double Discovery", Act IV, Scene 1 (1681). I completely reject Dr. Wright's testimony about the alleged Tulip Trust, the alleged encrypted file, and his alleged inability to identify his bitcoin holdings. The evidence establishes that (Wright) has engaged in a willful and bad faith pattern of obstructive behavior, including submitting incomplete or deceptive pleadings, filing a false declaration, knowingly producing a fraudulent trust document, and giving perjurious testimony at the evidentiary hearing." The court ordered Wright to hand over half of the fortune. Wright says he can't release the bitcoins until a courier arrives in 2020, which as Izabella Kaminska points out, is just like a scene from a famous 80s movie. Just watch this scene from Back to the Future - in which Western Union manages to maintain its market leading position into the 21st century - and enjoy your weekend, folks.

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