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Bitcoins seized from drug dealer to net the State €750,000

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€49m of Bitcoin was lost

€49m of Bitcoin was lost

€49m of Bitcoin was lost

The State is set to gain around €750,000 from the sale of 89 bitcoins seized from a drug dealer by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) earlier this year.

Mr Justice Alex Owens permitted the sale in the High Court after concerns were raised about hacking and the "high fluctuation" of the cryptocurrency's value.

However, €49m worth of the cryptocurrency is still out of reach because the codes to 6,000 other bitcoins, held in 12 accounts or "virtual wallets", cannot be found.

Clifton Collins (49), who is originally from Crumlin, Dublin, bought most of the Bitcoin in 2011 and 2012 using cash he made growing crops of cannabis, according to the High Court.

By 2017, their value had soared to around €53m and Collins got worried he could be hacked. He spread the 6,000 bitcoins out across 12 different accounts and kept the access codes in the aluminium lid of a fishing rod case at his rented home in Farnaught, Cornamona, Co Galway.

Landfill

After his arrest for having €2,000 worth of cannabis in the Wicklow mountains, his landlord cleared the property of his belongings and the access codes are believed to have ended up in landfill or an incinerator.

The CAB secured a freezing order on the Bitcoin to ensure it cannot be removed from the accounts without the court's approval. Smaller amounts of Bitcoin, which are accessible, and a sum of cash were also seized.

Counsel for CAB, Grainne O'Neill, asked Mr Justice Owens for an order on Monday allowing the sale of 89 bitcoins owing to security concerns and the "high fluctuation" of the cryptocurrency's value.

Allowing for the sale of the items, Mr Justice Owens said the State can do "whatever one does with these wretched things".

Sergeant Pat Lynch told the judge that Collins accepted the bitcoins were the proceeds of crime and that he had no objection to them being sold.

The CAB's inquiries into Collins began after a chance encounter with Garda James O'Sullivan on a forest road near the Sally Gap in 2017.