US government now owns Silk Road website and $28m of its Bitcoins

Through a default decision on Silk Road's seized Bitcoin, the US government has taken ownership of $28m worth of the volatile currency.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The US government now owns $28m in Bitcoin from the infamous Silk Road ecommerce site, which have remained unclaimed after their seizure last year.

US federal prosecutors have announced the forfeiture of 29,655 Bitcoins (currently worth $28m) that were held on Silk Road's server when the FBI seized it in late September.

The funds and the website were subject to a civil forfeiture action filed by prosecutors on September 30, and are alleged to have been used to facilitate money laundering.

Silk Road's alleged mastermind, Ross William Ulbricht, aka 'Dread Pirate Roberts', was arrested on October and is facing separate criminal charges, including one count of narcotics conspiracy, one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking, and one count of money laundering conspiracy.

As noted in court documents, the funds have been handed to the US government by default since no one had filed a claim for either the Silk Road website or the "Silk Road Server Bitcoins" within 30 days of the claim being filed. 

Ulbricht however has filed a claim over a much larger cache of 144,336 Bitcoins — today worth around $130m — that was also seized at the time of his arrest. Those Bitcoins however were found on hardware belonging to Ulbricht, who has previously denied being Dread Pirate Roberts.

Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara said the Bitcoins were forfeited because they were they were the proceeds of crime, not because they were online currency.

"With today's forfeiture of $28m-worth of Bitcoins from the Silk Road website, a global cyber-business designed to broker criminal transactions, we continue our efforts to take the profit out of crime and signal to those who would turn to the dark web for illicit activity that they have chosen the wrong path," Bharara said in a statement.

"These Bitcoins were forfeited not because they are Bitcoins, but because they were, as the court found, the proceeds of crimes."

The forfeited funds and website will now be at the disposal of the US Marshals Service.

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