Unprecedented $2.1B bitcoin seizure in Germany linked to online piracy group

A suspect willingly transferred nearly 50,000 bitcoin to “official wallets”

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Heiko Barth/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks

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Police in Germany seized nearly 50,000 bitcoin worth roughly $2.1 billion. 

The authorities alleged that the bitcoin is tied to a piracy site that violated the Copyright Act back in 2013. According to a police statement, a German and Polish man were found responsible for the alleged money laundering and reportedly bought bitcoin with the proceeds. 

The Tuesday statement marks the largest bitcoin seizure by German authorities. 

The future of the assets remain uncertain, though the police statement clarified that a suspect “voluntarily transferred them to official wallets provided by the BKA.”

“A final decision has not yet been made about the utilization,” the statement said.

Read more: SEC settles with ‘Bitcoin Beautee’ over $1.7B HyperFund scheme

However, authorities said they would not be providing more information until they complete the investigation. No charges have yet been filed against the men. Bitcoin (BTC), as of Tuesday morning, was trading above $43,000. 

While the United States leads in global Bitcoin node count with 28%, Germany is not far behind with over 13% of global nodes, according to Bitnodes. From a regulatory standpoint, it has become more crypto-friendly over the last few years, with some of its biggest banks seeking crypto-custody licenses. 

Germany granted a crypto custody license to Commerzbank in November, making it the first “full-service bank” to receive such a license.

Deutsche Bank’s Paul Maley told Blockworks last September that it was interested in offering corporate and institutional clients custody of “selected cryptocurrencies and some stablecoins.”

The bank applied for a crypto custody license back in June of last year.

Updated Jan. 39, 2024 at 11:07 am ET: Modified headline to reflect value of bitcoin seizure.


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