The owner of Canada's largest cryptocurrency exchange has unexpectedly died at the age of 30, taking with him the only password for a digital account holding £145 million of customers' money.
Canada's leading cryptocurrency exchange company has said it can not repay $190m (£110m) to clients because its founder died with their passwords.
"Quadriga's inventory of cryptocurrency has become unavailable and some of it may be lost", Jennifer Robertson, the widow of the exchange's founder, Gerald Cotten, wrote after his reported death of complications from Crohn's disease in December, as CoinDesk reported, citing a court filing.
Robertson has access to Cotten's laptop but writes that she is unable to open it.
While Robertson has hold of the founder's laptop, she is unable to retrieve any passwords for it.
Canadian crypto exchange QuadrigaCX owes its customers about $190 (249 million Canadian dollars).
Robertson said in the affidavit that Cotten's main computer contained a "cold wallet" of cryptocurrencies, which is only accessible physically and not online, and his death left "in excess of C$180 million of coins in cold storage".
"Despite repeated and diligent searches, I have not been able to find them written down anywhere", she said.
"For the past weeks, we have worked extensively to address our liquidity issues, which include attempting to locate and secure our very significant cryptocurrency reserves held in cold wallets, and that are required to satisfy customer cryptocurrency balances on deposit, as well as sourcing a financial institution to accept the bank drafts that are to be transferred to us", QuadrigaCX's Board of Directors wrote in a letter to customers on January 31. She said she had also received threats and slanderous comments. Robertson has asked the court for a stay of proceedings to protect the company from lawsuits and buy time while QuadrigaCX tries to access the cryptocurrency tied up in its cold wallets.
QuadrigaCX took down its website last week and replaced it with a statement saying it had filed for creditor protection "to allow us the opportunity to address the significant financial issues that have affected our ability to serve our customers". A court hearing to decide the company's short-term legal fate is set for Tuesday, February 5.
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