Finland’s customs agency has been struggling with what to do with a bitcoin (BTC) horde that fears might end up being sold off in the hands of criminals.
Finnish customs, known locally as Tulli, has been trying for several years to unload a total of 1,666 bitcoin, even drawing up a plan for a public auction of digital coins in September 2018. But officials are concerned that a sale would attract the wrong sort of attention and could even jeopardize the agency’s own security.
Finnish Customs Under The Risk Of Money Laundering
Tulli Director Pekka Pylkkanen told local media: “From our point of view, the problems are specifically related to the risk of money laundering. The buyers of (cryptocurrency) rarely use them for normal endeavors.”
In September 2016, Tulli confiscated the bitcoin find after a successful bust from an online dark market. Bitcoin traded at about $570 at the time, which meant the 1,666 BTC was worth about $950,000. It’s worth closer to $15 million with prices now just under $9,20.
At the all-time peak of Bitcoin near $20,000 in December 2017, the cache would have valued nearly $33 million.
Tulli is not the only government authority that has to decide what to do with confiscated bitcoin, usually with many times greater dollar-values than when they were first seized. The U.S. government, which has seized bitcoin worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, has hosted several online auctions for confiscated bitcoin.
In early 2019, Bitcoin confiscated by the Belgian authorities was sold to an online auction house. A year later, U.K. Police used the same auctioneer to sell cryptocurrency worth more than $290,000 from a teenage hacker who had seized it.
In 2018, the Finnish government barred customs officials from attempting to sell seized bitcoin on exchanges or trading platforms, instead ordering the agency to hold any digital assets confiscated in a secure cold storage.
Pylkkanen’s claim that the numbers don’t support most crypto holders using them for illicit purposes. A November report from blockchain analytics firm Elliptic suggested that $829 million be linked to the dark web in bitcoin, just 0.5 percent of all transactions.