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The death of an encrypted executive trapped C$190 million on a Canadian exchange. Or did it? Ever since Quadriga CX revealed last month the founder Gerald Cotten, who died in India in December, was the only person able to access the exchanges digital ledgers, scores of blockchain analysts, research companies, and amateur investigators have been arguing over whether some of the money has been moving between accounts since he died and even when the coins existed at all. Cotten's widow set off the storm by seeking protection from creditors for the company based company, saying that her late husband was very aware of security and she didn't know the password or recovery key of his encrypted laptop computer nor could she find something written down despite repeated searches.

Without the key to the digital accounts, it's nearly impossible to unlock the ledger and move the more than $144 million in coins Quadriga CX had memorized on its exchange. While proponents of digital currency argue that the incorruptible nature of the blockchain is its main feature, investors in the likes of Bitcoin and Ether have often lost their digital codes, locking themselves out of their accounts with little recourse. The argument that's what happened with Quadriga didn't pass the odor test for many in the market who's adept in cleaning the anonymous ledgers that underpin the decentralized networks for evidence of where digital coins can be stored.

The Quadriga story does not make sense, Emin Gn Sirer, a professor at Cornell University and co-director of the Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts, wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. The one amazing thing about blockchains is that everyone can audit, in essence, any company. A judge is about to deal with a motion to appoint lawyers who represent Quadriga account holders at a hearing on Feb. 14 in Halifax Supreme Court, based on a court filing Wednesday. The move comes after some holders asked the courts to have Bennett Jones LLP and McInnes Cooper represent them throughout the CCAA proceedings.

Jennifer Robertson, Cotten's widow, said her husband moved the majority of the digital assets to cold storage, and experts she brought in to try to hack into his other computers and cell phone met with only limited success. Attempts to circumvent an encrypted Universal Serial Bus flash drive have been foiled, she said in the court filing. In case the funds are frozen and the cold wall is inaccessible, it should be possible for the exchange to provide the cold wallet addresses so their claims might be verified with the aid of the blockchain, Sirer said. Analysis firms like Elementus say that by examining the patterns blockchain, they can guess which particular purses holding coins belong to. The researcher says it couldn't find any cold purses holding Ether, one of the cryptocurrencies that are missing.

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