Wilsons Auctions on Feb. 28 successfully sold off 315 bitcoin seized by the Belgian police from dark web drug dealers. The 24-hour online auction attracted interest from buyers from 110 countries.
Wilsons Sells Off $420k of Confiscated Crypto
Irish auctioneer Wilsons won the contract to dispose of the criminal assets on behalf of the Belgian Government. The 315 coins consisted of 104.99 each of bitcoin core, bitcoin cash and bitcoin gold. The total haul was valued at around £300,000 (~$420,000).
The Belfast Telegraph reported that the loot, with no reserve, was put under the hammer in lots ranging from 0.5 BTC to 4 BTC each. The lots for BCH and BTG contained a larger number of coins. Mallusk-based Wilsons also sold a small amount of BTC physically, during its unreserved government auction in Belfast on Thursday.
A large amount of the cryptocurrency being auctioned was seized by police from two drug-dealing brothers in the Belgian city of Antwerp, who were selling substances over the dark net and shipping it worldwide, the article said.
But in 2017 Belgian police also reported they had confiscated about 1,050 BTC from several dark web drug dealers. Liquidation of the seized crypto assets required that the country first implement laws governing these, as is the case with the traditional financial industry. That now appears to have happened, giving effect to the Wilsons BTC auction.
The Allure of Bitcoin’s Anonymity
Aidan Larkin, head of asset recovery at Wilsons, has previously said: “Following huge investment into our systems and infrastructure, we are able to offer government and law enforcement agencies worldwide a secure solution to the ever-increasing problem of seized cryptocurrencies.” He added that the Belgian government contract allowed the auctioneer to expand its cryptocurrency offering and “remove the risks that can be associated with trading with unregulated virtual currency exchanges.”
As cryptocurrencies develop, they have attracted a small group of criminal elements bent on exploiting the anonymity and decentralized nature of virtual currencies like bitcoin. While cryptocurrency offers certain advantages to criminals, fiat money remains their preferred currency. For example, some of the world’s largest banks have been fined billions of dollars for helping criminals to launder money.
Founded in 1936, Wilsons Auctions claims to be the largest auction company in the U.K. and Ireland. Larkin told the Belfast Telegraph that the criminal assets auctioned by the company had yielded more than £100 million for HM Revenue and Customs in the past five years. The company has also previously auctioned off monero (XMR) virtual currency.
“Five years ago we had a handful of contracts, we now represent 90% of law enforcement agencies in the UK and Ireland, in addition to contracts in Belgium, Malta and now the Balkan countries and soon to be in Nigeria and in Malaysia,” Larkin said.
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