The drama surrounding the alleged drug dealer who had to forfeit $57 million worth of Bitcoin continues. The Irishman has supposedly lost the private keys for all twelve accounts where he distributed all of his bitcoins. Thus, local authorities cannot access the funds.
Not Your Keys, Not Your Bitcoin
The Irish High Court ruled Clifton Collins to forfeit $56 million of Bitcoin assets a few days ago, as Cryptopotato reported. The Court decided that he purchased all coins with his drug profits. Collins didn’t refute the sentence and had to surrender his digital fortune to the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).
While this was supposed to be CAB’s largest case in its 25-year history, things took a wild turn yesterday. Even though the Bureau confiscated all twelve online accounts containing around 6,000 bitcoins, they couldn’t access any of them.
Collins, who purchased most of his digital assets in 2011-2012 when BTC’s price was significantly lower, said that he lost the private keys for those accounts. Fearing that storing 6,000 bitcoins in one account could expose him to potential threats, he distributed them in equal 500 BTC proportions on twelve accounts.
He printed out the private keys for each account on a piece of paper. He hid that paper inside the aluminum cap of his fishing rod, which he kept in a rented home. When initially arrested in 2017, the landlord hired workers to dump all of Collin’s belongings.
The workers said that they remembered seeing discarded fishing gear when they were throwing away his stuff. However, the dumped waste is sent to China and Germany to be incinerated, and the rod has never been found.
Collins has said that this outcome is a punishment for his stupidity.
Regardless of whether what Collins is true, there’s an important conclusion to be drawn here. No authority, not even a High Court, can seize someone’s bitcoins unless he’s willing to forfeit his private keys.
There’s a fundamental difference between Bitcoin and regular financial means of storing wealth. Take a bank account, for example. While only you can access your money stored in your bank account, that’s only true until a certain moment. If a court rules that you should forfeit your money and administers an order, in most jurisdictions, the bank is bound to oblige under law. Unless you decide to keep your cash buried underground or stashed at a place you haven’t disclosed to anyone, authorities can seize it.
In other words, the popular phrase “not your keys, not your bitcoins” is in full force here, and it shows how easy it is to safeguard your holdings without anyone being able to access it.
In any case, if Collins’ story is true, it would mean that all 6,000 bitcoins are lost forever.
Featured image courtesy of The Irish Times