The Bitcoin top in 2017 wasn't driven by mass speculation after all -- but only by a single market manipulator.

In a study conducted by John M. Griffin, a finance professor at the University of Texas and Amin Shams, finance professor at Ohio State University, it was revealed that the $20,000 spike in 2017 is not based on an organic demand for the king of cryptos. Instead, it was propped up solely by one account. The Wall Street Journal first reported the updated version of the study.

The manipulation scheme involved then top crypto exchange Bitfinex and Tether Limited, two companies that are subsidiaries of iFinex. Tether, the "stablecoin" issued by Tether Limited that is said to be backed by $1 for every token in circulation, has been linked to Bitcoin since June.

Tether (USDT) serves as a price support for Bitcoin wherein huge volumes of Tether are minted and transferred directly to Bitfinex. When BTC drops, Tethers are then exchanged to propel Bitcoin back up. The same research that probed the correlation of the two cryptos didn't conclude that it was caused by a single large player until their updated results last month.

"We find that the identified patterns are not present on other flows, and almost the entire price impact can be attributed to this one large player," Griffin and Shams wrote. 

"We map this data across both blockchains and find that the one player or entity (labeled as 1LSg throughout the paper) is behind the majority of the patterns we document."

It all works out well if there's real interest for Tethers to facilitate Bitcoin trading, but that's not what the study found out. New Tether coins are minted despite no orders from customers, thereby creating price movement irreflective of actual demand.  

It ties back to April, how Tether Limited reneged on their $1 promise since their court filing exposed that they only have $0.74 for every USDT.

The study didn't identify who was behind the manipulation, but the researchers said that Bitfinex knew that the scheme was going on and perhaps assisted in the whole operation.

However, an analyst from Vaneck doesn't believe in what the study concludes.  

Gabor Gurbacs tweeted:

"I continue to be disappointed by career academics that fail to understand Bitcoin/crypto market structure basics as well as the fundamentals of cause and effect. The rise of tether is a result of organic bitcoin and crypto demand in periods of hyper growth."

Bitcoin In this photo illustration a visual representation of the digital currency Bitcoin sinks into water in London, England, Aug. 15, 2018. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images