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US government to auction $26 million in Silk Road Bitcoins

 Authorities in the US are planning to auction off the crypto-currency seized in the 2013 raid of Silk Road.

Bitcoin AP

In 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Ross Ulbricht — known as “Dread Pirate Roberts” or DPR — in connection with his association with Silk Road. Ulbricht’s assets and devices were seized, and these supposedly included about 29,655 Bitcoins.

Silk Road was known in the underground communities as an exchange for illicit products and services, which included drugs, firearms and even orders for assassination. DPR allegedly earned a commission from each exchange, and Bitcoin’s pseudonymity made it the preferred mode of payment. Federal agents took advantage of tracing Silk Road’s activities to one of DPR’s aides, which eventually led to the bust.

Currently valued at about $878:1 BTC (as per Mt. Gox), the Silk Road stash is worth around $26 million, although the value changes almost every day, due to the volatile nature of Bitcoin’s value. The same assets were worth in excess of $28 million in the previous week, when Bitcoin was valued higher.

In a statement by Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, it was confirmed that the Silk Road website itself is being forfeited along with the Bitcoins. However, it was clarified that the crypto-currency is being forfeited and auctions not because they were Bitcoin, but because these were used in criminal activity.

With today’s forfeiture of $28 million 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. These Bitcoins were forfeited not because they are Bitcoins, but because they were, as the court found, the proceeds of crimes.

Apart from the Bitcoin seized from Silk Road, the authorities also seized some 144,336 BTC from Ulbricht’s laptop, and this amount is now valued at about $126.7 million. Ulbricht has been charged with  “intentionally and knowingly” violating US narcotics law, as well as possessing controlled substances and committing or conspiring to commit computer hacking offenses, apart from other charges.

While Ulbricht has denied any involvement in Silk Road, his defense team is working hard at getting back the confiscated Bitcoins, but still maintaining innocence from the deep-web site.

How exactly government will liquidate the seized Bitcoins is still up for speculation, although the exchange that will process said auction is likely to profit from the high-profile sale. “We have not yet determined exactly how the bitcoins will be converted and liquidated,” said Jim Margolin, Manhattan US Attorney Office spokesperson, in an interview with Forbes.

The planned auction is likely to result in a large-scale decline in Bitcoin value, similar to how the price dropped when Silk Road was shut down. However, some observers are more optimistic, saying that the price drop would only be a short-term effect, as this will be followed by strong demand from investors buying undervalued BTC.

Source: CoinDesk / Image credit: AP

J. Angelo Racoma
J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo develops business case studies for Microsoft enterprise applications and services. He is also co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing team.

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