Confusion surrounds the fate of Mt. Gox, once the world’s biggest trading exchange for the virtual currency bitcoin.
Its website was down and its Tokyo office empty.
The head of Mt. Gox, Mark Karpeles, said on Wednesday that he remains in Japan and is working with others to solve the company’s problems.
“As there is a lot of speculation regarding MtGox and its future, I would like to use this opportunity to reassure everyone that I am still in Japan, and working very hard with the support of different parties to find a solution to our recent issues,” Karpeles said in a posting on the Mt. Gox website.
He offered no details.
Japanese authorities said they are looking into the abrupt closure. “At this stage the relevant financial authorities, the police, the Finance Ministry and others are gathering information on the case,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference on Wednesday.
A message on the exchange’s website on Tuesday, said a “decision was taken to close all transactions for the time being in order to protect the site and our users,” citing “recent news reports and the potential repercussions on Mt. Gox’s operations.”
Kolin Burges, a British bitcoin trader who flew to Tokyo chasing his money, was among several picketing the Mt. Gox offices.
He had not got any answers about what was going on with the exchange, and is not hopeful: “It seems that I have lost all of my money and I’m annoyed that the company has been stringing people along for so long, claiming everything has been okay. Luckily, most people didn’t believe them.”
Trading at the digital marketplace operator was halted this month after it detected “unusual activity.”
Rival exchanges – and investors who fear they have lost their bitcoins – have accused Mt. Gox of being lax over its security.
‘Bad actors need to be weeded out’
Tokyo investors in the electronic currency said the problem was with Mt. Gox, not with bitcoin itself.
The Bitcoin Foundation, the cyber currency’s trade group, seemed to concede that the trading platform was gone as it said in a statement: “Mt. Gox is one of several exchanges, and their exit, while unfortunate, opens a door of opportunity. This incident demonstrates the need for responsible individuals and members of the bitcoin community to lead in providing reliable services.”
Six leading bitcoin exchanges – which allow users to trade bitcoins for US dollars and other currencies – distanced themselves from Mt. Gox.
“This tragic violation of the trust of users of Mt. Gox was the result of one company’s actions and does not reflect the resilience or value of bitcoin and the digital currency industry,” the companies – Coinbase, Kraken, Bitstamp, BTC China, Blockchain and Circle – said in the statement.
“As with any new industry, there are certain bad actors that need to be weeded out, and that is what we’re seeing today,” the statement continued.
Karpeles told Reuters last week, “We know there are all kinds of criticisms made against Mt. Gox, but we believe we are doing all we can to solve problems as quickly as possible having our customers in mind.”
Bitcoin has had a rocky ride, its dollar value soaring and crashing more like a highly speculative investment than a store of value, and its value has varied greatly depending on the exchange.