A UK police department has sold 295 BTC which they say were legally seized from a drug dealer. The court ordered him to forfeit his crypto stored in a hardware wallet. The police reportedly get to keep 18.8% of the sale proceeds.
British Police Seized BTC from Drug Dealer
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the principal public prosecuting agency for conducting criminal prosecutions in England and Wales, unveiled this week the details of a case involving 295 BTC. The CPS wrote:
A drug dealer and money launderer who was using cryptocurrency to conceal his funds has had over £1.2 million [~US$1.6 million] worth of bitcoins seized, restrained and then converted into British pounds in the first case of its kind.
Sergejs Teresko, a 31-year-old Latvian, was arrested on suspicion of money laundering and drug offenses in April last year. A “cannabis factory,” a number of fake identification cards, luxury goods such as jewelry and Rolex watches, gold bars, expensive cars and large sums of cash were found at his home in Surrey, a county in southeast England.
He pleaded guilty on October 6 “to one count of being knowingly concerned in the production of a controlled drug, one count of possessing criminal property, one count of possession of articles for use in frauds and six counts possession of an identity document with improper intention,” the CPS detailed.
Teresko “was later convicted of money laundering and drug offenses at Kingston Crown Court where he was sentenced to nine years, three months in prison,” the agency noted:
In total, Teresko was found to have made £2,058,613 [~$2,703,578] from his crimes with an available amount of £1,447,935 [~$1,901,574] to pay back. He was given three months to pay the order or would have to spend a further 10 years in prison.
Kingston Crown Court ruled on Thursday that Teresko must forfeit the £1,447,935 “of his ill-gotten gains, including bitcoin,” the Financial Times reported.
Keepkey Wallet Found
According to Surrey Live, a Keepkey hardware wallet was found at Teresko’s home. Surrey Police then secured a warrant to access the device. DI Rob Bryant of South East Regional Organised Crime Unit was quoted by the news outlet:
We didn’t think we were going to actually find anything in these wallets. We thought we would open them and there’d be nothing there.
The cops, however, found two wallets on the device. The first did not contain anything but the second had 295 BTC. When they found out the coins’ worth, “the colour started to drain from a number of faces,” the publication quoted Bryant saying.
The Independent elaborated:
Surrey Police has now become the first UK force to successfully seize bitcoin, convert it into sterling and be granted permission by a court to keep the cash for government and police coffers.
Police Can Keep 18.8%
Using “powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act,” Surrey Police seized Teresko’s coins, the CPS revealed.
Citing BTC’s “extreme volatility and the risk of it being moved on or stolen,” the cops applied to the court to seize the coins and convert them into sterling, Surrey Live described. They convinced the judge that “bitcoin was a real thing that could be seized,” the news outlet wrote.
The CPS explained that it “applied to have the restrained bitcoins converted into pounds. The 295 bitcoins were then sold by Surrey Police through an approved bitcoin exchange.”
According to the Financial Times, the police “set up its own bitcoin wallet and then used an offshore exchange to transfer and convert” the seized BTC. The proceeds were then “transferred to a police bank account,” the publication added:
Surrey Police gets to keep 18.8 percent of the proceeds of Teresko’s crimes — about £273,000 — which the force can use to top up its operating budget.
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Images courtesy of Shutterstock and Surrey Police.
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