The Swedish government had to return 33 criminally-derived bitcoins (BTC) to a drug dealer because the prosecution did not anticipate the spike in BTC’s price in its seizure request to the court.
Crime in BTC: a lesson in cryptographic law
The story goes back two years. Swedish authorities had seized 36 BTC from illegal transactions belonging to a drug dealer. Prosecutor Tove Kullberg asked the court to dispose of the illegally obtained tokens, or more precisely, their equivalent in fiat currency. Bitcoin was trading at about $3,700 at the time. The total of BTC was therefore worth approximately $136,000.
When the drug dealer was released, the State went ahead and sold all of his BTC, except that the prosecution had asked the Court to forfeit $136,000 in BTC, which is equivalent to only 3 BTC as of August 20, 2021 – 1 BTC was worth $48,978. The prosecutor did not anticipate the rise in the price of Bitcoin over the years:
“The lesson to be learned from this is to keep the value in bitcoin, that the profit from the crime should be 36 bitcoins, regardless of the value of bitcoin at that time.”
As a result, the government had to return the remaining 33 BTC worth more than $1.6 million, despite their illicit origin.
Illicit activity, money laundering and image laundering
Is Bitcoin really the currency of choice for delinquents and criminals to conduct their illegal activities and launder their ill-gotten gains? Silk Road has blackened Bitcoin’s image, and this bad crypto image still lingers in many minds.
Nevertheless, the study conducted by the Crypto Council for Innovation and supported by former CIA Director Michael Morell shows that Bitcoin is used in less than 0.5 percent of illicit transactions. Cryptocurrencies are still in fact the most common way for criminals to operate and launder their money.
For prosecutor Tove Kullberg, the outcome of this case is “unfortunate in many ways. But this story is also a testament to the performance of a bitcoin that is currently continuing its journey into the six figures after returning to the $50,000 mark.