281 Bitcoins Confiscated by Canadian Court from Drug Dealer

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A judge in Canada’s Ontario province has ordered the seizure of bitcoins worth $1.93 million from Matthew Phan, an individual convicted of selling contraband items on various dark web marketplaces.

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30-year-old Phan pleaded guilty to allegations of drug dealing and possession of restricted substances. He was apprehended by law enforcement officials when he used Bitcoin (BTC) to buy narcotics and arms on the dark web personally.

On April 3, 2019, Superior Court Justice Jane Kelly ordered the seizure of 281.41 Bitcoins worth $1.93 million that were found to be in possession of Phan. The Ministry of the Attorney General was tasked with confiscating the digital currency balance.

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Substantial evidence produced in court proved that a string of illegal activities was the source for Phan’s digital currency wealth. In December 2018, he was arrested for possession of cocaine, PCP, and other drugs, which he likely intended to resell at a markup. While the state argued for the seizure of all digital currency found on his computer back in February, Phan contested that not all of it was acquired illegally.

In the ruling, Justice Kelly said that there was substantial evidence confirming Phan’s involvement in dealing with narcotic substances and purchasing arms using Bitcoin. The court concluded that the Bitcoin found in Phan’s possession was used for illegal activities and, hence, must be seized. Justice Kelly stated that the accused had failed to convince her that this sizeable crypto balance was acquired through legal means.

The $1.9 million seizure is believed to be the largest-ever confiscation of cryptoassets from criminals in Canada.

In 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shut down The Silk Road dark web marketplace, which had gained notoriety for selling drugs and arms in exchange for cryptocurrencies. Investigating agencies seized 26,000 bitcoins at the time, which was worth an estimated $3.6 million. The incident became known to be the largest ever Bitcoin seizure in history until it was overshadowed a few days later.

In October 2013, the FBI announced it had seized 144,000 bitcoins belonging to Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht after his arrest. The United States Marshals auctioned the digital holdings for a total of $48 million.

Reports suggest that American authorities have seized over 200,000 bitcoins so far. Global law enforcement agencies, on the other hand, have confiscated nearly 453,000 bitcoins, combined. The total amount of bitcoins seized could, thus, very well exceed two percent of the total Bitcoin in circulation.

Bulgarian authorities alone seized 213,519 Bitcoins during a SELEC investigation in May 2017. However, government officials have indicated that the exact count has been overestimated by the media. It is also unclear if Bulgarian authorities have sold the coins or not.

Do you think governments should responsibly hold or sell the crypto seized from illegal activities? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! 

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Rahul's cryptocurrency journey first began in 2014. With a postgraduate degree in finance, he was among the few that first recognized the sheer untapped potential of decentralized technologies. Since then, he has guided a number of startups to navigate the complex digital marketing and media outreach landscapes. His work has even influenced distinguished cryptocurrency exchanges and DeFi platforms worth millions of dollars.

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