A Bitcoin wallet worth $964 million has been emptied: US Department of Justice announces seizure of funds
On the night of the US presidential election, one of the world's most valuable Bitcoin wallets was emptied. The approximately 69400 bitcoins, worth $964 million, were moved and the U.S. Department of Justice seized them.
It is believed that the bitcoin hoard was associated with the former darknet Silk Road market, which has been closed since 2013. The wallet had been considered "dormant" since 2015, as the mystery owner has not performed any movement of funds since then. At first, several cybersecurity analyst firms believed that the wallet's bitcoins had been moved by an anonymous owner, or less likely by a hacker who had managed to appropriate the cryptographic key per wallet. The mystery was revealed only after a few hours, when the US authorities admitted to seizing the loot.
Bitcoins disappeared from the "dormant" wallet
The Bitcoin wallet from which almost $1 billion disappeared had been dormant since 2015: since then, in fact, there were no movements of either incoming or outgoing cryptocurrency.
According to London-based analytics firm Elliptic, which specializes in tracking the movement of dirty money in the cryptocurrency sector, the emptied wallet could belong to the Silk Road darknet marketplace, which was shut down in 2013 by U.S. federal authorities.
The site was a darkweb black market where users could buy and sell illegal goods, such as drugs, weapons or credit card numbers. After its closure in 2015, its creator Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to two life sentences for money laundering, computer hacking and conspiracy to traffic drugs.
Bitcoins disappeared: the first hypotheses
According to the analysis company CipherTracer, it could have been an anonymous owner who carried out the transaction to stay up to date with the Bitcoin network. The analysis company did not exclude even the most complicated option: that a hacker in possession of the cryptographic key had managed to access the wallet.
For over two years, in fact, the dormant wallet had ended up in the crosshairs of a hacker community and last September a Twitter user claimed to have an encrypted file that could have contained the passcode to access the treasure.
Bitcoins disappeared: the seizure of the US authorities
The mystery was solved after a few hours, when the US Justice Department's attorney, David Anderson, announced the seizure of the funds for almost 1 billion dollars.
The agents of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) working with Chainalysis, a company specialized in blockchain analysis and investigation, were able to identify 54 transactions that represented a theft carried out by an anonymous individual between 2012 and 2013 against the Silk Road wallet.
After the theft, Ulbricht managed to discover the identity of the mysterious individual and threatened him in order to get the money back, which was never returned. Now, according to U.S. authorities, the anonymous individual has signed a forfeiture agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and turned the funds over to the government.