Mt. Gox, once the world's largest bitcoin exchange, shutdown without warning today, Tuesday, Feb. 25, leaving investors in fear as they wait to hear where their money has gone, and the future of the digital currency in doubt.
Gox's Tokyo office was empty today, save for a few protestors, who were wondering where, exactly, the company had gone to? This news, coming after the company had indefinitely stopped withdrawals due to "unusual activity" reported on the site.
The unfortunate news is no one knows for sure what happened to investors' money, and the CEO, Mark Karpeles, has abandoned all forms of communication.
The warning signs had been numerous the past few months, as industry insiders had called to question lapses in security in Mt. Gox's servers. As a result, the value of a Gox bitcoin had dropped to just over $100 in late February; as opposed to other currency exchanges, where the value of their coins were still hovering around $400.
Earlier this month, a cafe next to the Gox office, which used to accept bitcoin investments, had been deserted. Reportedly, due to security issues as well.
One investor, Kolin Burges, flew all the way to Tokyo from London for answers. Only to find the offices of Mt. Gox gone, and no answers to what has happened to all of his bitcoins - valued at over $300,000.
"I'm very angry," Burges told a reporter from Reuters. "They prolonged this and kept telling people everything was OK. A lot of people did believe that, and it's very annoying what they've done to me and up to a million others."
When the Japanese Financial Services Agency was asked about how they could help in resolving the issue, their response to the "what do we do now?" question highlights a growing issue with the currency: it's hard-to-impossible to figure out who can hold companies, like Gox, accountable for the money they take in.
"Bitcoin is not a currency; it is an alternative to currencies, like gold," said a spokesman for the Financial Services Agency. "We are only responsible for currencies and therefore bitcoin is not subject to our regulatory oversight."
Some bitcoin experts have cited the incident as an opportunity for other exchanges to move in and take advantage of the opportunity to entice millions of potential customers looking for a new company to invest with; while many see Gox's rapid exit from the stage as an example of just how "high risk" of an investment bitcoins really are.
While the future of bitcoin remains up to debate, for now it appears that Mt. Gox is gone, and the whereabouts of investors' money are unknown.