A crackdown on organized crime by Bulgarian law enforcement in May resulted in the seizure of more than 200,000 bitcoins – an amount worth more than $3 billion at today’s prices.
According to a press release dated May 19 from the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELEC), a regional organization comprised of 12 member states including Bulgaria, a total of 213,519 bitcoins were seized that month. Twenty-three Bulgarian nationals were arrested during the operation, and officials said at the time that the arrests and subsequent asset seizures followed an investigation into an alleged customs fraud scam.
As of press time, the amount seized is worth approximately $3.3 billion, at a price of roughly $15,524, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI).
Authorities commented at the time:
“The offenders choose the bitcoin way of investing/saving the money, because it is rather difficult to be tracked and followed.”
They further alleged that those involved developed a virus which was used to hack into Bulgarian Customs computers, allowing the perpetrators to skip paying fees when transporting goods into the country. The virus was uploaded to government machines by bribed agents, according to the release.
In all, the alleged perpetrators avoided paying some 10 million leva (Bulgaria’s national currency), worth roughly $6 million.
What remains unclear at this time is what the Bulgarian government is doing with the seized bitcoins.
According to a report from Bivol.bg from Nov. 28, the Bulgarian government declined to release further details, citing an ongoing criminal investigation.
Notable in the May 19 release is a notation that, at the time it was published, a single bitcoin was worth $2,354. The release stated that the total amount seized was worth $500 million – less than one-sixth of its current value today.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com
The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at [email protected].