The bizarre saga of Canadian cryptocurrency exchange QuadrigaCX just took another twist as lawyers representing victims of the now-defunct platform are seeking to have the CEO’s body exhumed.
In a letter sent to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on behalf of users of the bankrupt exchange, the law firm of Miller Thomson LLP is requesting the exhumation and post-mortem autopsy of its founder and CEO, Gerald Cotten.
Seeking proof of Cotten’s death
Citing the “questionable circumstances” surrounding Cotten’s reported death and the significant losses incurred by users of the exchange, the firm’s request aims to “confirm both [the body’s] identity and the cause of death.”
The 30-year old founder of what was once Canada’s largest crypto exchange purportedly died of complications stemming from Crohn’s Disease while on honeymoon in India in December 2018.
Cotten’s death was not revealed until more than a month after his passing, with his widow, Jennifer Robertson, assuring users at the time that “QuadrigaCX remains committed to servicing its customers in an open, timely and transparent manner.”
Cotten takes keys to his grave – but what about the funds?
Just sixteen days after Robertson’s announcement, however, it was revealed that Cotten had been the only person at QuadrigaCX with access to the exchange’s cold wallets, where the bulk of its customers’ funds were kept.
At the time of the filing, approximately 115,000 users had balances on the exchange totaling around CAD$250 million [US$190 million] in combined fiat and cryptocurrencies.
However, in June of this year, court-appointed trustee Ernst & Young Inc. (EY) submitted a report to the court revealing that, rather than keeping customer funds in cold storage, Cotten had transferred them to his personal accounts.
Cotten reportedly used the funds to make trades on other exchanges that resulted in substantial losses as well as to subsidize his and Robertson’s lavish lifestyle.
So is Cotten dead or not?
Reports of Cotten’s death have been met with suspicion and doubt from the very beginning.
Aside from the fact that Crohn’s disease is not usually fatal, the events leading up to and immediately following Cotten’s death have been called into question.
Cotten was admitted into Fortis Escorts Hospital in Jaipur on the evening of December 8, 2018, with “symptoms of acute gastroenteritis,” according to attending physician and gastroenterologist Dr. Jayant Sharma.
Cotten’s blood pressure and pulse were both normal and, other than vomiting and diarrhea showed no signs of distress.
Shortly after noon the following day, after being sent for an ultrasound, Cotten began to experience “rapid and severe deterioration” and respiratory stress as well as signs of a possible gastrointestinal perforation.
At 2:45 pm on December 9th, Cotten went into the first of three cardiac arrest episodes. While he was resuscitated from the first two episodes, Cotten was unable to be revived a third time and was pronounced dead at 7:26 pm.
Although Cotten’s official cause of death is listed as “sudden cardiac arrest stemming from a perforation,” Dr. Sharma called it “medically unusual.”
Hotel delivers Cotten’s body to be embalmed
No autopsy was conducted following Cotten’s death and it took two attempts to find someone who would embalm the body so it could be transported back to Canada for burial.
The first attempt was at the Mahatma Gandhi Medical College & Hospital where Cotten’s body was delivered by the hotel where he had been staying.
Receiving physician Dr. Simmi Mehra refused to embalm the body when the hotel workers could produce no documentation or information about Cotten other than the cause of death.
While Dr. Mehra admitted that she had no proof of “anything untoward” regarding Cotten’s death, she noted that the circumstances made her uncomfortable.
“That guy told me the body will come from the hotel. I said: ‘Why the hotel? I’m not taking any body from the hotel, it should come from Fortis,'” Dr. Mehra said.
The body was next taken to SMS Medical College where it was ultimately embalmed.
“As far as the cause of death is concerned, it is none of our business. Our business is just to infuse the chemicals in the body for preservative purposes,” said Dhiraj Saxena, an anatomy professor at SMS.
An official at SMS dismissed any suggestion that Cotten may have faked his death.
Despite this, the law firm believes that the circumstances “further highlight the need for certainty around the question of whether Mr. Cotten is in fact deceased.”
“Counsel respectfully requests that this process be completed by Spring of 2020, given decomposition concerns,” the firm adds.