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The FBI could end up with millions of dollars in bitcoins—and it plans to sell them

AP Photo/Susan Walsh
FBI director James Comey is suddenly sitting on $1.2 billion in cryptocurrency
USAPublished This article is more than 2 years old.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) could end up owning up to 5% of all bitcoins in circulation following its crackdown on the illegal drug market Silk Road. Update: This speculative number is based on an assertion of an FBI spokesperson, who guessed that the Silk Road founder’s personal bitcoin wallet could contain up to $80 million in bitcoins. That would require that founder Ross Ulbricht had kept essentially all of the revenue he earned from Silk Road in bitcoin, which is highly unlikely.

The FBI’s plan for the stash? ”We will probably just liquidate them,” an FBI spokesperson told Kashmir Hill of Forbes.

That means markets that trade the alternative currency should brace for a fire sale.

Most of the bitcoins seized by the FBI are encrypted, so the agency won’t know exactly how many they have until whoever is responsible for cracking encryption on seized assets has had a go at them. (Perhaps they’ll enlist the NSA?)

Hill estimates the FBI could ultimately have seized 600,000 bitcoins.

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