Law enforcement in Belgium has seized over US $1 million worth of bitcoin from a drug dealer shipping illicit substances from his home in Torhout, and they can’t figure out what to do with the coins.
Not Paying Your Postage Can Have Some Bad Consequences in Belgium
According to a Dutch-language publication, law enforcement raided the 25 year-old’s home in January after he failed to pay the proper postage fees on packages containing synthetic drugs. The dealer had been selling the substances online through a darknet market, and mailing them to customers through the Belgian post office.
In addition to the drugs, law enforcement discovered 946 bitcoins in the man’s possession. At the current market rate, that amounts to more than $1 million.
The judge presiding over the drug dealer’s case sentenced him to forty months in prison. However, the judge could not decide on what to do with the seized bitcoins. Since January, the coins have sat in the portfolio of the Central Office for Seizure and Confiscation (COSC), the government office that handles assets seized from criminals.
The COSC still has custody over another 105 bitcoins — currently worth over $100,000 — from a previous drug case. The courts have not decided on what to do with those coins either.
While selling the coins on the market is an option, the presiding justice is unsure if that is the proper course of action to take.
In a statement to Belgian MP Koen Metsu, justice minister Koen Geens said that the COSC will continue looking for a solution on what to do with the seized bitcoins.
Geens told Bitsonline that the Justice Department wants to find “the best solution that fits the Belgian [government] and our political partners.”
Gov’t Seized Bitcoins Is Nothing New
In 2014, just months after the late 2013 Silk Road bust, the US government began selling seized bitcoins to the public.
Rather than tanking the market by selling them on an exchange, the US Marshals Service held a series of over-the-counter auctions. Anyone could participate in the auctions, as long as they met the minimum bid requirement set by the Marshals.
During the course of the auctions, the Marshals sold tens of millions of dollars worth of bitcoins seized in the Silk Road raid. Individuals and companies alike participated in the auctions. Barry Silbert started an auction pool on his SecondMarket trading platform, where participants could make contributions to a collective fund that would make a single, lump-sum bid for the coins. This allowed people to participate in the auction even if they couldn’t meet the Marshal’s minimum bid requirement.
Although the Belgian government has not made a decision on what to do with their seized coins, the Silk Road auctions may serve as a template for whatever course of action they do take. Geens told Bitsonline, “Some are of the opinion to sell [the bitcoins] off in an auction, while others tells [sic] us to keep it.”
Until the government makes a decision, the coins will sit in COSC’s vault, their value fluctuating as the bitcoin markets march on.
What do you think Belgium should do with the bitcoins? Let us know in the comments below.
Images via iStock, Pirate Printing Company