A decade after the infamous Mt. Gox hack that led to the loss of 850,000 bitcoins, French entrepreneur Mark Karpeles is preparing for a comeback. As the former CEO of Mt. Gox, once the world’s largest bitcoin exchange, Karpeles was a pioneering yet controversial figure in the early days of cryptocurrency.
Mt. Gox collapsed in 2014 after the bitcoin theft, which was valued at $470 million at the time. Karpeles was arrested in Japan and spent a year in prison, accused of fraud and data manipulation, before being released on bail. In 2019, after a lengthy trial, he received a suspended 2.5 year sentence on the data manipulation charge but was cleared of embezzlement and breach of trust.
In an interview with La Tribune, Karpeles has now revealed plans to launch a new crypto project called “Ungox” which will operate as a rating agency providing information and analysis on cryptocurrencies to protect investors. He aims to be based out of France and position the country at the forefront of the expanding crypto economy.
Regarding the Mt. Gox debacle that ruined many early bitcoin investors, Karpeles admits the hack was “a failure” and regrets not having better security protections in place at the time. He says the compensation process for former clients took nearly a decade due to the slow pace of the Japanese legal system. Of the stolen 850,000 bitcoins, 200,000 were recovered and will now finally be redistributed to victims, representing 20% of the original theft but 500% of the value due to bitcoin’s price surge.
Commenting on crypto’s troublesome year with the FTX collapse, Karpeles said he initially empathized with former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried but came to realize he had lost touch with reality. However, Karpeles believes continued scandals are part of crypto’s “cleaning up” and maturation process. He advocates for a flexible, innovation-friendly crypto regulation framework similar to the U.S. system.
While Karpeles has moved on from bitcoin maximalism, he remains interested in blockchain technology and wants to create solutions that are energy efficient and promote decentralization. He admits Mt. Gox was a centralized failure but believes there is still untapped potential in the crypto space.
In addition to launching his new venture Ungox, Karpeles is considering writing a book about his experience rising and falling along with bitcoin over the past decade. The French entrepreneur recognizes crypto’s primary use case should be everyday payments, not speculation, and wants to enable secure, useful digital money for the masses.