An alleged drug dealer lost 52 million euro (over $56 million) in Bitcoin (BTC) after the Irish High Court ruled that they were criminal proceeds and should be confiscated.
Local news outlet Independent.ie reported on Feb. 19 that the court accepted that Clifton Collins was involved in drug trafficking. Collins did not contest the Criminal Assets Bureau’s (CAB) application for the seizure of his assets.
Authorities began investigating Collins when police found a quantity of cannabis in his vehicle during a traffic stop. This led police to search an address in a village in Galway and discover a large number of cannabis plants, allegedly linked to Collins.
Collins was an early investor
Collins is believed to have invested in Bitcoin at an early stage and received great returns on his investment. The CAB imposed a freeze on his cryptocurrency in an attempt to ensure that it could not be moved without the court’s approval.
The court decided to consider the investment as criminal proceeds, presumably implying that the initial investment was money obtained through drug sales.
The seizure of Collins’ Bitcoin was largely responsible for 2019's record value of assets seized by the CAB, amounting to €62 million (nearly $67 million) in total.
Cryptocurrencies and drug dealers
The correlation between cryptocurrencies and crime is largely caused by their permissionless nature and the ability to hold a crypto address that is not linked to one’s identity.
As such, authorities are increasingly finding cryptocurrencies in their investigations of drug dealers and online markets for illicit substances. In October 2018, Christopher Bania was ordered by a Wisconsin court to give up almost 17 Bitcoin (worth $150,000 at the time) after pleading guilty to drug distribution.
At the end of August, Neil Wals, chief of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Global Cybercrime Program, warned that cryptocurrencies have made combating money laundering significantly harder.