Kolin Burges (R), a self-styled cryptocurrency trader and former software engineer from London, holds a placard to protest against Mt. Gox, as photographers take photos of him in front of the building where the digital marketplace operator was formerly housed in Tokyo February 26, 2014. / REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Troubled exchange reveals lost coins were found in an old wallet from 2011

Scandal-hit bitcoin exchange Mt Gox has had a sizeable piece of luck, announcing that it has found 200,000 “forgotten” bitcoins a week after filing for bankruptcy protection.

The filing stated that the Tokyo-based exchange thought had lost nearly all of the 850,000 bitcoins it held worth around $116 million (£70m). This trove of currency brings the total number of lost coins down to 650,000.

 “[The exchange] had certain old­ format wallets which were used in the past and which, Mt Gox thought, no longer held any bitcoins,” said chief executive Mark Karpelès in a statement posted online.

28-year-old Karpelès said that the bitcoins had been moved to an offline wallet on March 14-15 “for security reasons”. The cause of the initial disappearance of Mt Gox’s stockpile of coins (100,000 of which were owned by the company and the rest by customers) is still unknown.

Mt Gox, which was the oldest and largest bitcoin exchange, has some 127,000 creditors who fear that they have lost their investment in the digital cryptocurrency. It’s not clear if any of the 200,000 coins recovered will be used to reimburse these individuals.

The Japanese cabinet recently announced that bitcoin should be classed as a commodity rather than a currency and that the government is considering taxing transactions using the currency as part of a stricter regulatory framework.

For many investors and independent financial observers the scandal that has engulfed Mt Gox is emblematic of the problems still facing the currency.

In the UK, HM Revenue & Customs announced earlier this year they would be introducing “provisional VAT treatment pending further developments” on the currency: VAT is not due in the UK involving exchanges of bitcoin for foreign currency but is “from suppliers of any goods or services sold in exchange for Bitcoin or other similar cryptocurrency.