Irish Bitcoin Seizure Demonstrates the True Power of Crypto

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“Be your own bank,” goes one of the oldest slogans for Bitcoin. The Irish Times reports that being his own bank lost an Irish drug dealer, and the government, some 6,000 BTC.

Pot Grower Becomes Bitcoin Millionaire

An Irish man named Clifton Collins reportedly bought Bitcoin in 2011 with proceeds from growing cannabis. The 6,000 coins have appreciated in value significantly in the intervening years, now clocking in at more than 53 million euros.

The government seized the wallets containing the coins, but Collins apparently lost his private keys in a robbery. Only Collins can provide access to his coins, not some banker, and not some warrant written by a judge. This spells a new reality not just in this case, but for governments worldwide.

Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau is mystified by the situation. “We seized it, but it’s not working,” they’re essentially left to say. All of which proves a valuable use case for Bitcoin – ownership of assets.

While there is big money to be made in the custody of crypto assets, as Coinbase and others have demonstrated, most people have no issue managing their assets on their own. For these people, there’s regular, straight-up cryptocurrency, including Bitcoin and Monero.

Lack of Seizure

Andreas Antonopoulos reportedly said:

Funny how people who create money by fiat think they can also seize it by fiat, even when it’s not fiat. “But we said we seized it. In writing and on official paper and everything! What do you mean it’s not seized?” Crypto: I respect your authority but I doubt your ability.

Collins was sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 for growing pot. At that time, authorities were able to seize smaller amounts of Bitcoin – more than a million euros worth. They also seized other stuff from him, but were unable to access the coins they seized, which were spread across multiple wallets for security.

This is nothing like the seizure for Ross Ulbricht. In that bust, American authorities successfully seized 600,000 BTC. At today’s prices, Ulbricht would effectively be one of a multi-billionaire.

In the years since Ulbricht’s arrest, things like Monero have come about. Monero is intended to shield information about transactions from prying eyes. Called a privacy coin, it has quickly become a favorite for darknet markets and criminals. Although the ultimate favorite of criminals to this day, after over ten years of cryptocurrency, is still fiat cash.

Privacy coins offer the power of hiding transaction details from the public gaze. This means that firms like Chainalysis will have a much harder time tracing the details of money moved in a privacy coin chain like Monero.

Thus, while it’s not necessarily a success story for crypto, the tale of Mr. Collins’ BTC outlines a core use case for cryptocurrency. You can’t deny the appeal, even when the government takes it, they can’t take it. Not unless you give it to them. And in this case, even if he wanted to, he couldn’t do it – the codes are gone.

It’s poetic justice for the government.