Just under three-hundred bitcoins have been seized and liquidated by a police force in the UK in a first-of-its-kind case in the country.
Surrey County Police Force made the seizure in October of 2017, as part of a raid on a rented property in Virginia Water, which was found to contain a large cannabis farm. The attention of the police was gained after Latvian national Seregjs Teresko who lived at the property was reported kidnapped by his girlfriend. He subsequently was found unharmed the following day but was charged on a number of accounts including with money laundering in the country. A number of gold bars and precious stones were found at Teresko’s property. Further to this, his private keys were obtained and he has since been convicted and will serve a nine-year prison sentence.
After setting up its own bitcoin wallet, Surrey Police then transferred the 295 bitcoins to its own account and sold them on an unspecified overseas crypto-exchange at the market rate. Cross-referencing price information for the period, it is believed the bitcoin price was at around £3,800 ($5,000). This would have yielded a return of around £1.2 million ($1.5 million).
The legitimacy of this unprecedented action in UK policing was confirmed on Thursday, as a court ruled that the force was entitled to confiscate the digital assets. Of the money raised through the sale, Surrey Police will keep 18.8%, which will be put towards its operational budget. That equals around £273,000.
Speaking on the subject, Detective Inspector Matt Durkin said:
“Cryptocurrency is used legitimately by a lot of people but it’s also used by criminals. We know that in dark marketplaces bitcoin is the chosen medium of exchange. We were not going to accept that bitcoin was out of the reach of law enforcement, it’s not and nor are other types of cryptocurrency.”
UK policing has been undergoing efforts recently to improve its knowledge of cryptocurrency in recent months and there have been propositions from a number of law enforcement groups in the country to change the country’s laws to make seizures of cryptocurrency easier to carry out.
The money raised from this seizure may represent a significant contribution to operational funding for Surrey Police particularly at a time when UK policing budgets are being cut. The force might be kicking itself however that it did not hold on to the seizure a month or two longer; less than two months after the seizure, bitcoin reached its all-time high of almost $20,000.
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