TOKYO — The website of major Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox is offline Tuesday amid reports it suffered a debilitating theft, a new setback for efforts to gain legitimacy for the virtual currency.
The URL of Tokyo-based Mt. Gox was returning a blank page. The disappearance of the site follows the resignation Sunday of Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles from the board of the Bitcoin Foundation, a group seeking legitimacy for the currency.
At the Tokyo office tower housing Mt. Gox, Bitcoin trader Kolin Burgess said he had picketed the building since Feb. 14 after flying in from London, hoping to get back $320,000 he has tied up in Bitcoins with Mt. Gox.
"I may have lost all of my money," said Burgess, next to placards asking if Mt. Gox is bankrupt. "It hasn't shaken my trust in Bitcoin, but it has shaken my trust in Bitcoin exchanges."
A "crisis strategy" report shared widely online that purports to be an internal Mt. Gox document says more than 740,000 Bitcoins are missing from the exchange, which froze withdrawals earlier this month. It says the theft went unnoticed for several years and turned on disguised withdrawals.
A theft of that magnitude would equate to losses of $350 million at current Bitcoin prices, but in practice such a figure is highly uncertain because of Bitcoin's extreme fluctuations in value and its lack of broad acceptance as an alternative to money.