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Most of Dread Pirate Roberts' treasure still buried, say researchers

Is there a link from Silk Road to Bitcoin daddy Satoshi Nakamoto?

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While the FBI found a Bitcoin wallet worth around $122m on the laptop belonging to a man suspected of being the “Dread Pirate Roberts” (DPR), two Israeli researchers believe that's only about 22 per cent of what the Silk Road kingpin would have held.

Moreover, the researchers suggest a possibility that there's a link between the suspect and the mysterious creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto.

The startling accusation comes from the New York Times, which has access to an advance copy of a research paper by the Israel-based Weizmann Institute's Dorit Ron and Adi Shamir.

While conceding that the link is tenuous, the two researchers say they have identified transactions that link the suspect and Bitcoin accounts they tentatively associate with Nakamoto. The transactions are real enough: it's the connection to Nakamoto that they describe as speculative.

They state that during an analysis of transactions related to Silk Road, they identified a transfer “to an account controlled by Mr. Ulbricht from another that had been created in January 2009, during the very earliest days of the Bitcoin network, which was set up the previous year.”

The transfer in question was for 1,000 Bitcoin, made on March 20, 2013. The New York Times quotes from the research paper:

“Such a single large transfer does not represent the typical behavior of a buyer who opens an account on Silk Road in order to purchase some narcotics (such buyers are expected to make an initial deposit of tens or hundreds of dollars, and to top the account off whenever they buy additional merchandise). It could represent either large-scale activity on Silk Road, or some form of investment or partnership, but this is pure speculation.”

The researchers describe this as suggestive of the Ulbricht-Nakamoto link, rather than proof of it.

Their research is based on an analysis of a complete listing of all Bitcoin transactions, which began as an analysis of the statistical behaviour of the cryptocurrency market. ®

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