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Tokyo Bitcoin Exchange Mt. Gox Sets Up Call Center for Inquiries

March 04, 2014

The woes keep piling up for Mt. Gox, the Tokyo-based exchange for the virtual currency Bitcoin. To address some of these problems, the exchange announced today that it has set up a new contact center to handle inquiries by individuals trading the currency.

Bitcoin, of course, is the peer-to-peer payment system used by online gamers and others. The currency has seen a series of problematic events recently. Late last year, glitches in the trading system caused shutdowns that led to delays of transactions by weeks or months. Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, the world’s third largest Bitcoin exchange, is also being investigated by various federal agencies, and is being sued by at least one entity. On Friday, the CEO of Mt. Gox, Mark Karpeles, said the exchange was filing for bankruptcy protection, after revealing that about $500 million in bitcoins stored by the exchange had been stolen, probably due to illegal access through the abuse of a bug in the Bitcoin system, said the exchange.

The bankruptcy notice posted by Mt. Gox (available here in both English and Japanese) states that the call center, which has been established to respond to all inquiries, launched yesterday (March 3, 2014). Those with questions are encouraged to call between Monday and Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Tokyo time). The number for English speakers was given as +81 3-4588-3922.

 “As a result of our internal investigation, we found that a large amount of bitcoins had disappeared,” read the notice. “Although the complete extent is not yet known, we found that approximately 750,000 bitcoins deposited by users and approximately 100,000 bitcoins belonging to us had disappeared. We believe that there is a high probability that these bitcoins were stolen as a result of [an abuse of a software bug] and we have asked an expert to look at the possibility of a criminal complaint and undertake proper procedures.”

In the statement, Mt. Gox is reporting $63.6 million in debt, which represents double of what it’s claiming in assets.

In response to problems some see as inherent to a virtual currency, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) last week called for a ban on the use of Bitcoin, noting that it is "highly unstable and disruptive to our economy" and an aid to "illicit activity." Some critics of Bitcoin have alleged the virtual currency is being widely used by global criminals to move money. 

Edited by Blaise McNamee