American justice has just seized the equivalent of 3.36 billion dollars in bitcoin. The seizure is impressive thanks to its size, but also because of the origin of these bitcoins: the Silk Road site, a former site known to have been a major online drug market.
$ 3.36 billion: this is what the United States Department of Justice has just recovered, on November 7, 2022. The sum was seized in bitcoin, and it is the second largest amount ever recovered by American justice in cryptocurrency. In total, the government recovered 50,676 bitcoins.
In addition to the record sum, the seizure makes history for another reason: the bitcoins recovered come from Silk Road, a site with a sulphurous reputation that was a major drug market on the Internet. Created in 2011 and closed for the first time in 2013, Silk Road has always been in the sights of the American government. By recovering the more than 50,000 bitcoins, the Department of Justice has just struck a blow.
Bitcoin stolen from Silk Road
The seizure was announced by the US Department of Justice on November 7 by press release, but the case began long before. It was during a search carried out on November 9, 2021, almost a year to the day before the publication of the press release, that American justice recovered the 50,676 bitcoins.
The main defendant in the story, James Zhong, allegedly committed a “ electronic fraud 10 years ago, explained the prosecutor in charge of the case in the press release. He allegedly then stole the bitcoins from Silk Road” thanks to an elaborate technique “, and would have, once his larceny accomplished, “ tried to hide his trail through a series of complex transactions, hoping he would be hidden by the dark net “.
For 10 years, James Zhong managed to evade justice and hide the location of his bitcoins, but ” using state-of-the-art cryptocurrency tracking techniques […]the police were able to track him down and find the stolen amount “. Ten years after the events and years after the closure of Silk Road, the case highlights the fact that American justice “ will never stop chasing the money “, according to the prosecutor.
Long presented as “the eBay of drugs”, Silk Road was a darknet site specializing in the sale of illegal products, such as drugs, but also false papers. Created in 2011 by Ross Ulbricht, Silk Road quickly became known to the FBI, which shut down the site in 2013. Its founder has since been sentenced to life and has since been trying to seize all the money that passed through the site. .
Two years ago, in November 2020, the FBI had already managed to recover $1 billion from the site. The seizure announced yesterday by the Department of Justice shows that authorities are still searching for the Silk Road money, only part of which has been found so far.
Silk Road has only been in operation for a short time, but the site has left a strong footprint on the internet. Even before its closure in 2013, many cases shook the site, such as the theft of bitcoins which had just been seized. It helped raise awareness of bitcoin (and associated cryptocurrencies with illegal activities) and it became a synonym for the “dark net”. Silk Road was a real phenomenon, to the point where its story was adapted into a film in 2021.