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Software engineer loses life savings with death of cryptocurrency firm's founder

Software engineer loses life savings with death of cryptocurrency firm's founder
The Quadriga exchange halted operations after the sudden death of its founder left $142.8 million of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies protected by his passwords unretrievable. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Tong Zou wasn’t a stereotypical crypto bro bent on accumulating flashy trophies such as Lamborghinis when he deposited his life savings into Quadriga CX’s digital exchange.

The 30-year-old software engineer, who had been working in San Francisco for seven years, just wanted to save a few bucks on transfer fees after deciding to move to Vancouver. It proved to be a $422,000 mistake.

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"It’s all my savings, so I’m just living on what little I have left and trying to start over," Zou said in a phone interview from Vancouver, where he has been living out of an AirBnB for the past month. “It pretty much took everything away from me."

Zou is one of Quadriga’s 115,000 clients who are out of luck after the sudden death of the firm’s founder left $142.8 million in cryptocurrencies protected by his passwords unretrievable. The exchange has halted operations and was granted protection from creditors Feb. 5 in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax.

Zou considers himself "one of the largest affected individual users" — according to an affidavit he filed as part of the court proceedings. He bought bitcoin in the U.S. and transferred it over to Quadriga CX and immediately sold it for Canadian dollars, which was supposed to be deposited into his Canadian bank account. That was in October. He’s still waiting.

“I wasn’t using it for trading — I just wanted to move my money over to my Canadian bank account," Zou said in the interview. “What I didn’t know was that my withdrawal would be pending or incomplete and it never got deposited in my bank account. I’ve been waiting four months so far."

“A lot of other people are in the same situation as me," he said.

That money was going to help him settle back in Canada, after being away for years. Zou, who grew up in Orillia, Ontario, had moved to the U.S. after graduating from the University of Toronto in 2011. He spent the next seven years working as a software engineer around San Francisco at companies including BitTorrent Inc., Walmart Inc. and Spigit Inc.

“I was going to use that money for a deposit on an apartment, but now I can’t do that anymore," Zou said. “And now I’m currently searching for a job, so it’s kind of a bad time for me."

Zou has been coordinating with other affected users online and through the Telegram messaging app, and turned to Bennett Jones LLP and McInnes Cooper to represent him and others in Quadriga’s creditor protection proceedings in Halifax. "I just got caught up in this at the wrong time, I guess."

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