June 20, 2021

Feds free to ‘liquidate’ seized silk road Bitcoins worth $25M

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Silk-Road-bitcoinBy Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchiera From Mashable

Federal prosecutors are now free to cash in on the Bitcoin seized from the online drug marketplace Silk Road. United States District Judge J. Paul Oetken signed off on the forfeiture order for the Bitcoins, transferring their ownership to the state, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office announced on Thursday.

When the original Silk Road was shut down in October, the feds seized one of the biggest wallets ever, containing more than 29,600 Bitcoins — now worth around $25 million. At the time of the seizure they were worth six times less, around $4 million.

“These Bitcoins were forfeited not because they are Bitcoins, but because they were, as the court found, the proceeds of crimes,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement.

The prosecutors asked that the Bitcoins be forfeited “because those assets allegedly were used to facilitate money laundering and constitute property involved in money laundering,” the press release read.

At this point, it’s still unclear how or if the forfeited Bitcoins will be converted to cash, as the judge’s order of forfeiture simply gives prosecutors permission to liquidate them. Once they do, proceeds from the sale will go to the U.S. Treasury.

“We don’t have any guidance as to what we’re going to do with it now,” a spokesperson from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office told Mashable. “We’re examining our options with respect to the forfeited Bitcoins and are considering a number of means of liquidating them.”

Forbes’ Kashmir Hill, however, conjectures that the likeliest outcome for the Bitcoins will be sale at auction, as is common with other forfeited goods.

The FBI is also in control of the Bitcoin wallet belonging to Ross Ulbricht, the alleged mastermind behind Silk Road, which contains more than 144,000 Bitcoins. The wallet was found on his laptop. These won’t be touched for now, as Ulbricht, who’s accused of being Silk Road’s administrator, has filed a claim to stop the forefiture of those Bitcoins, asserting ownership of the large wallet.

“Those are still contested,” the spokesperson said.

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