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MtGox website disappears amid Bitcoin theft claim worth millions of US dollars

TOKYO -- The website of Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange MtGox went down Tuesday amid reports of a theft of the virtual currency worth hundreds of millions of dollars, dealing a blow to its credibility.

The Bitcoin community rallied round to defend the unit, with chief executives of several major operators pledging to work together to shore up public faith in the project.

Visitors to the www.mtgox.com domain on Tuesday got a blank page — consistent with contents having been removed — more than two weeks after the firm suspended cash withdrawals, claiming there was a bug in the software underpinning the crypto-currency.

A widely shared document purporting to be an MtGox “crisis strategy” said the firm might have lost more than 744,400 Bitcoins in a theft that had gone unnoticed for years.

That number of Bitcoins would be worth more than US$300 million, using rates at functioning exchanges Tuesday afternoon.

That figure would represent around 5 percent of the approximately US$5.9 billion global value of Bitcoins in existence.

It was not immediately possible to verify the document, which was posted on a blog written by someone who describes himself as “an entrepreneur and former VC who makes the business case for #Bitcoin.”

Consternation has grown since MtGox stopped processing external transactions on Feb. 7, claiming there was a problem with the program that powers the currency and allows it to be transferred between users or swapped for goods and services.

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This photo illustration shows a man looking at the Bitcoin exchange website of MtGox in Tokyo on Tuesday, Feb. 25. (AFP)

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