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Irish High Court seizes drug dealer's Bitcoin worth €52m

By Lawrence Gash

Dublin-born dealer was an early Bitcoin bull

Irish High Court seizes drug dealer Bitcoin worth 52m euros

An alleged drug dealer has been forced to forfeit his vast stores of Bitcoin after the Irish High Court ruled that it was amassed as the proceeds of crime.

The court stated that 49 year-old Clifton Collins, from Dublin, participated in the sale and supply of drugs throughout the Irish capital. The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) thus applied to seize Collins’ Bitcoin assets worth around €52m (£43m, $56m).

As the defendant did not contest the application, the CAB will not have to wait the usual seven years before the seized assets are transferred to the Irish state.

Collins was arrested in County Wicklow after police found a quantity of cannabis in his 4x4. When Irish police then searched a property linked to him in County Leitrim, they discovered his substantial growing operation in County Leitrim.

Nonetheless, the size of the Bitcoin cannot be said to reflect the scale of Collins’ operation. It is thought that Collins was an early investor in the world’s leading cryptocurrency. In the past seven years Bitcoin’s value has increased by 34,166 per cent.

While cryptocurrencies have been championed as a liberating technology that free their owners from state and central bank control, ensuring increased privacy through decentralised ledgers, their privacy has been abused by bad-actors.

From Islamist groups such as Hayat Tahrir al-sham (formerly al-Qaeda in Syria) and Hamas’ Qassam Brigades, to Mexican drug cartels or low level criminals, cryptocurrencies have been seen as a useful way to launder money and transfer illicit funds.

However, as digital assets have become more mainstream the level of regulatory scrutiny and law enforcement know-how has increased.

As a result, there have been an increased number of seized crypto fortunes auctioned off by governments following criminal trials. In October 2019, the British police raised more than £240,000 from a convicted hacker’s crypto stash. While earlier this month the US Marshals Service auctioned $37m worth of confiscated Bitcoin.

It is as yet unclear whether the Irish authorities will auction off Collins’ cryptocurrency haul or simply keep it.

Bitcoin is up 0.01 per cent in the past 24 hours, staying level by mid-market trading to stand at $10,135.

FURTHER READING: US marshals prepare to auction $37 million in seized Bitcoin in February

FURTHER READING: UK police raise almost $300,000 in auction of crypto

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