The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has recently concluded a landmark legal process, officially sanctioning the confiscation of 69,370 Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies from the defunct dark web marketplace Silk Road. This judicial action enforces a previous ruling that acknowledged the U.S. government’s rightful claim to these digital assets, which were linked to Silk Road’s notorious illegal operations.
The origins of this case trace back to 2020 when the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seized cryptocurrencies valued at over $1 billion. Following this seizure, a legal motion was filed for the official forfeiture of these assets. The confiscated Bitcoin, at the time of seizure, had a market value exceeding $1 billion but has since appreciated to a worth of over $3 billion.
Silk Road, established and operated by Ross Ulbricht from 2011 to 2013, gained infamy as an online platform for the sale of drugs, weapons, and other illegal goods. The FBI intervened in 2013, leading to the site’s closure and Ulbricht’s arrest. Subsequently, Ulbricht was convicted of money laundering and running a criminal enterprise. In a significant move, Ulbricht agreed in 2022 to employ $3 billion worth of stolen Bitcoin to offset his debt to the U.S. government and relinquished his claim to 69,370 Bitcoins.
The narrative of Silk Road’s Bitcoin also involves an individual known as “Individual X,” later identified as James Zhong. Zhong had hacked into Silk Road, usurping control of its funds. In April, he received a federal prison sentence for his actions. Notably, in July, the DOJ-associated cryptocurrency wallet executed transactions involving approximately 9,825.25 Bitcoin, valued at around $299 million, connected to Silk Road.
The U.S. government, now in possession of these Bitcoin assets, has them under the administration of various federal entities, including the DOJ and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The total value of Bitcoin assets currently held by the U.S. government, stemming from various illegal activities, is estimated to be around $5.4 billion.
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