Ira Kleiman has asked, and the judges in Kleiman v. Wright have just requested, discovery and depositions from three UK residents — Andrew O’Hagan, Ramona Watts and Robert MacGregor — Craig Wright’s biographer, his wife, and his (previous?) boss. The request was signed on Monday 22 July and put up on the docket today, Wednesday 24 July, around 15:00 UTC.
This international request is under the Hague Evidence Convention (“The Hague Convention of 18 March 1970 on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters”). It’s a normal way of making this sort of discovery request — per the quick explainer, “A letter of request shall be executed ‘expeditiously’ and may be refused only in specific cases.”
The case was brought by Ira Kleiman as the executor of his brother Dave Kleiman’s estate. Craig Wright says he mined a million bitcoins with Dave as “Satoshi Nakamoto,” the creator of Bitcoin — so, asks Ira, where are Dave’s bitcoins from the Satoshi stash?
The players — who are these UK witnesses?
Robert MacGregor was Craig Wright’s immediate contact with Calvin Ayre. MacGregor had been convinced by Wright and his associate Stefan Matthews that Wright really was Satoshi Nakamoto — the inventor of Bitcoin.
MacGregor worked out a deal for Ayre to buy Wright’s companies, clear his considerable debts, and hire him at nCrypt (now called nChain). He drafted the deal to include Satoshi’s “life rights” — and commissioned Andrew O’Hagan, a novelist and journalist of some repute, to write a biography.
O’Hagan didn’t take their money, and refused to sign a contract, or even a nondisclosure agreement — but instead, he pursued the story as an embedded but independent journalist, given complete access by MacGregor and nCrypt. They seem to have trusted in O’Hagan’s professionalism.
The planned official biography didn’t come out — but O’Hagan eventually published a book-length article on Wright, The Satoshi Affair (archive), in the London Review of Books in 2016, and expanded it for his book The Secret Life: Three True Stories (UK, US) in 2017. I used O’Hagan’s piece extensively as a source in the Craig Wright section of Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain.
O’Hagan’s story starts with Wright and his wife, Ramona Watts, ducking out of their Sydney North Shore house and skipping the country, just ahead of an Australian Tax Office raid on 9 December 2015.
In the course of the present suit, Wright said that Watts had worked in his companies since 2011, knew of his work with Dave Kleiman, and was involved in the deal with MacGregor. Ira Kleiman says that Watts contacted him and asked him to take (unspecified) actions when Wright and Watts were being investigated by the ATO.
Documents requested in discovery
O’Hagan has been asked to produce all documents and recordings used in writing The Satoshi Affair, any previous drafts of the text, including edits and comments, and any email correspondence with Wright, Watts, MacGregor, Matthews or Ayre — so, pretty much everything he used to create the article.
Watts has been asked to produce:
- all documents and communications with Dave Kleiman;
- all documents and communications with Wright that pre-date their marriage, and concern W&K Info Defense Research, Dave Kleiman, Satoshi Nakamoto or the Tulip Trusts;
- all documents and communications with Robert MacGregor, Stefan Matthews, Calvin Ayre or their agents, prior to 14 February 2018, concerning these matters;
- all documents and communications with Andrew O’Hagan, prior to 14 February 2018, concerning these matters.
MacGregor has been asked to produce all documents and communications between himself and Wright, himself and Watts, or himself and Matthews or Ayre, that mention any of:
W&K Info Defense Research, Dave Kleiman, Satoshi Nakamoto, the creation of Bitcoin, the Defendant and/or Dave’s mining of bitcoins prior to 2014, the trusts at issue in this litigation, the ownership of the bitcoins/intellectual property at issue in this litigation, the ATO investigations, Uyen Nguyen, and the business deal with MacGregor, Matthews, and Ayre.
MacGregor also has to produce all the documents he, Ayre and Matthews would have reviewed for due diligence on the deal with Wright.
The court has also requested depositions — where the witnesses will be interviewed by the plaintiff’s lawyers, under oath — concerning the following:
O’Hagan: the accuracy of the quotes and factual assertions made in The Satoshi Affair; any statements made or documents provided by Wright, his ex-wife Lynn Wright, Watts, or anyone interviewed for The Satoshi Affair concerning the matters at hand in this case.
Watts: non-privileged statements made by Wright concerning the matters at hand; knowledge of the matters at hand via other means.
MacGregor: statements made by Wright, Watts or Wright’s agents concerning the matters at hand.
What if the witnesses don’t come through?
These requests have the same sort of legal power that a deposition request sent to a US-based third party would. So the witnesses can’t just ignore it.
O’Hagan probably thought all of this was behind him two years ago. But, as an experienced professional, he’s quite likely to have all the materials ready to hand.
(Wright recently called The Satoshi Affair “a lovely little piece of fiction, designed to promote his stupid ideas and whatever else” — if O’Hagan saw that, he might appreciate this opportunity to respond.)
Communications between a married couple are privileged — hence the requests to Watts being phrased to exclude any such communications. Anything from before their wedding, or public documents, are not privileged.
MacGregor was a director at nChain until late 2016. I don’t know if he’s still working for Ayre in some other capacity, and has access to all the documents requested.
I asked my Florida litigator friend Brad Patrick what might happen next.
“This is a clear indication the court really wants to hear from these folks,” Patrick says. “The court has determined relevance, and is reaching across the pond to aid in pursuing common law pre-trial discovery. Nothing unusual in itself — but the stakes are high, and the court is indicating it wants this done properly.”
The witnesses may object to the scope of the discovery or the deposition. But Patrick says that the standard for scope is broad — “more likely than not to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence” — so the questions will be apposite. I expect the questions for MacGregor to be particularly interesting.
No date has been set for the depositions — they’ll take place at the London offices of Boies Schiller Flexner, at a date to be agreed between the parties and the witnesses.
Not everything in Kleiman v. Wright is this well-thought-out. Here’s a filing from two days before, from another claimed Satoshi, that was mailed to the court and duly put up on the docket. Not so sure this will get a lot of play.
While I know that some of you are reading the latest Bitfinex & Tether filings and will wax poetic on what you think it all means, this was filed today in the Kleiman v. Wright case and clearly CLEARLY changes everything. pic.twitter.com/qDYKlngkl9
— Palley (@stephendpalley) July 22, 2019
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