German police officers executed a historic crypto seizure earlier this month, claiming over 50,000 Bitcoin (BTC) from two aged men for copyright law violations over a decade ago.
Worth $2.1 billion at today’s price, the action represents the largest ever Bitcoin seizure for German authorities, and one of the largest ever executed by law enforcement throughout the world.
Massive Bitcoin Piracy Sting
Per a police statement on Tuesday, the investigation included support from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), the FBI, and a Munich forensic IT expert company.
The accused, who allegedly violated the Copyright Act and engaged in subsequent money laundering, voluntarily handed over their proceeds to digital wallets provided by the BKA. They included a 40-year-old German man and a 37-year-old Polish man, both responsible for running “a leading German company until the end of May 2013.”
“They are said to have purchased Bitcoins with the proceeds,” the statement read. “No further information will be provided until the investigation is completed.”
No decision has been made thus far on what to do with the reclaimed coins.
In May 2013, Bitcoin traded for roughly $100 apiece, meaning the entire BTC stash would have been worth about $5 million at the time. Bitcoin has appreciated over 400x since then, trading for $43,500 at writing time.
Record-Breaking Bitcoin Seizures
The asset’s tremendous growth has culminated in multiple record-shattering financial seizures across the world, due to large stashes of ill-obtained coins from Bitcoin’s early days being reclaimed at far higher values years later.
A leading example is that of the 50,000 Bitcoin seized by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in November 2021, related to the darknet marketplace Silk Road that was taken down in 2013. Worth just a few million dollars at the time, the value of the coins soared to $3.36 billion by the time they were seized.
The U.S. government has since decided to incrementally sell that stash on Coinbase in several batches. An additional batch of roughly 2900 Silk Road-connected coins was claimed last year, which the government plans to dispose of once the grace period for migration claims has passed.
Months after the Silk Road seizure, the government topped its previous record by seizing 120,000 BTC connected to the 2016 Bitfinex hack. Between the time of the hack and their subsequent seizure, their value surged from $74 million to $4.5 billion.
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