Sweden owes $1.5M to convicted drug dealers in bitcoin blunder

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 24
Sweden has to pay convicted drug dealers 13 million kronor ($1.49 million) due to a prosecutor's mistake, as well as the dramatic rise in value of seized bitcoin in the two years it took authorities to sell the digital currency.




The seizure of assets acquired through criminal activity is a fairly common concept used throughout the world. With the existence of digital currencies like bitcoin, law enforcement agencies and lawmakers need to make changes to those processes to keep up, a lesson Sweden has painfully learned.

Three men were convicted of selling drugs online in April 2019, reports Sveriges Radio, which involved the seizure of 36 bitcoin generated from the sales. The men received sentences of between 4 years and over 6 years for their part in the sales.

When they were sentenced in May 2019, the debt to the state was listed in kronor, not bitcoin. Prosecutor Tove Kullberg converted the value of the bitcoin into kronor, which was valued at 1.3 million kronor ($149,000) at the time.

Almost two years later, the Enforcement Officer dealing with the cryptocurrency auctioned the bitcoin. The problem to the state is that the value of bitcoin had grown during that time, from approximately 40,000 kronor ($4,600) to roughly half a million kronor (around $50,000).

While the state could have sold the bitcoin at the time it was seized, with the proceeds matching the listed value in kronor, the delay meant that there was a considerable surplus of funds after the state took the value of seized kronor.

This is a problem that could have been avoided had the prosecutor used bitcoin as the currency for the seized assets. Now, Sweden has to return the unsold funds to the convicts, which is believed to be extremely embarrassing to the country.

Kullberg believes the prosecution was one of the first in Sweden that prosecutors had secured proceeds of a crime in cryptocurrency. She also admits her knowledge of bitcoin was lacking at the time, and that there wasn't any guidance to prosecutors on how to handle cryptocurrencies at all.

The incident highlights a need for governments and judicial systems to keep up with the developments of cryptocurrencies.

In the United States, the U.S. Treasury has started to take steps over the matter, such as tightening regulations to require transfers valued at $10,000 or more to be reported to the IRS. SEC chief Gary Gensler has also said he wants to protect cryptocurrency investors from fraud, and that investment law changes will be needed.

In China, the government banned financial institutions from conducting business involving cryptocurrency, as part of a May crackdown that prompted miners in the country to scale back their operations.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 6
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,437member
    Another case of Bitcoin being used by criminals - shocking!

    This doesn't make sense - if they bitcoin were seized, they were the state's property, not the criminals' so any accrued value should also be the state's.  Either way, perhaps they should just file a bunch of procedural motions until the value drops again, then they're good.
    caladaniankillroyviclauyycwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 6
    Ridiculous! 

    What if the price of Bitcoin had gone down, would the criminals have had to pay them the difference? Not likely. There is no mention of any court having ruled one way or the other? Stupid story. 
    killroywatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 6
    MplsP said:
    Another case of Bitcoin being used by criminals - shocking!

    This doesn't make sense - if they bitcoin were seized, they were the state's property, not the criminals' so any accrued value should also be the state's.  Either way, perhaps they should just file a bunch of procedural motions until the value drops again, then they're good.
    If you read a little closer paying attention to what it actually says you will find it makes perfect sense.

    The fine was denominated in Kronor, not bitcoin and was to be paid by selling the bitcoin. The state is entitled to exactly what they fined them. No more, no less. After the sale of the asset the excess funds are still the criminals property. Stupid prosecutors didn't think this one out very well.
    killroyCloudTalkinbeowulfschmidtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 6
    DangDave said:
    Ridiculous! 

    What if the price of Bitcoin had gone down, would the criminals have had to pay them the difference? Not likely. There is no mention of any court having ruled one way or the other? Stupid story. 
    Yes ,it is very likely they would have had to pay the difference. It is not at all uncommon in the USA  that if seized assets are not sufficient to pay a fine, the government goes after anything else the criminals have. Happens every single day.
    CloudTalkinwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 6
    davidwdavidw Posts: 1,374member
    DangDave said:
    Ridiculous! 

    What if the price of Bitcoin had gone down, would the criminals have had to pay them the difference? Not likely. There is no mention of any court having ruled one way or the other? Stupid story. 
    Not if the seizure was listed as the 36 Bitcoins gained from their illegal activity. It would be like if law enforcement seized a home purchased with money from an illegal activity. The value of the home is not what they list as being seized. If the criminals purchased the home for $300K with illegal funds and valued at $350K at the time of seizure, the State gets what it will sell for in auction. Whether it's above the $350K value or below the $300K purchase price, the criminal would neither gain nor lose from the sale.  

    But in this case the seizure was listed as $149K, the value of the 36 Bitcoins at the time of seizure, not 36 Bitcoins. So the State is only entitled to the $149K they seized. I would not be surprise that if the Bitcoins sold for less than $149K, that they would not go after the criminals for the difference. It would be the State fault that they didn't sell the Bitcoins when it was worth $149K, at time of seizure. At the time of seizure, the State had procession of the $149K that they listed as seized property. The $149K was not for a fine or retribution, that the criminals had to pay. The way it's listed, the State is recovering money that the criminals gained through an illegal activity, at the time of arrest. And they are only entitled to recover the $149K that they listed. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 6
    DangDave said:
    Ridiculous! 

    What if the price of Bitcoin had gone down, would the criminals have had to pay them the difference? Not likely. There is no mention of any court having ruled one way or the other? Stupid story. 
    Yeah!

    Totally unprofessional to publish stories written objectively and riddled with open ended questions!
    —who needs questions? Not me—I want stories with answers to all questions—preferably condensed to a single, simple truth!

    Bollocks—all this thinking have made me disorientated 👀🤭😵
    beowulfschmidtwatto_cobra
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