Recently, a digital wallet containing about $1 billion in bitcoin was emptied by an unknown person or group. The perpetrators of the act have revealed themselves and very surprisingly, it has turned out to be the US government.
The bitcoin in the digital wallet is actually proceedings from the dark web drug marketplace Silk Road. About Silk road, the FBI says; “Silk Road emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet at the time, serving as a sprawling black market bazaar where unlawful goods and services, including illegal drugs of virtually all varieties, were bought and sold regularly by the site’s users. While in operation, Silk Road was used by thousands of drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services to well over 100,000 buyers and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from these unlawful transactions”. The Bureau shut down the website in October 2013.
The US Department of Justice had announced a seizure of the wallet’s contents in a civil forfeiture case targeting the Silk Road. According to the department, it is now in possession of almost 70,000 bitcoins in the wallet. The FBI also had the help of an anonymous hacker, who court documents refer to as ‘Individual X’. The government, however, knows the identity of the said hacker.
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Individual X had previously hacked Silk Road’s payment systems and took control of the bitcoins. Although Silk Road’s creator, Ross Ulbricht threatened Individual X, he refused to return the wallet. He later made an agreement with the US authorities to forfeit the contents. Ulbricht is currently serving a double life sentence plus 40 years for his role in building the site.
US Attorney David L. Anderson, in a statement, describes the operation as a big success for the government. “Silk Road was the most notorious online criminal marketplace of its day. The successful prosecution of Silk Road’s founder in 2015 left open a billion-dollar question. Where did the money go? Today’s forfeiture complaint answers this open question at least in part. $1 billion of these criminal proceeds are now in the United States’ possession,” Anderson said.
According to the US government, Silk Road generated about 600,000 bitcoin in commissions whilst active. The FBI seized about 175,000 bitcoin which is equivalent to about $1 Billion after Ulbricht’s arrest in 2013.
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