FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German prosecutors have confiscated more than 50 million euros ($60 million) worth of bitcoin from a fraudster. There’s only one problem: they can’t unlock the money because he won’t give them the password.
The fraudster had been sentenced to more than two years in jail for covertly installing software on other computers to mine bitcoin and has since served his term. He maintained his silence throughout while police made repeated failed efforts to crack the code to access more than 1,700 bitcoin, said a prosecutor in the Bavarian town of Kempten.
“We asked him but he didn’t say,” prosecutor Sebastian Murer told Reuters on Friday. “Perhaps he doesn’t know.”
When he went behind bars, his bitcoin stash would have been worth a fraction of the current value. However, price of bitcoin has surged over the past year, hitting a record high of $42,000 in January. At the time of this writing, the price of bitcoin is at $38,863.
This approach, in some countries, could result in jail time. In the United States, for instance, a former police officer refused to give law enforcement the passwords to his hard drives. Prosecutors suspected the drives contained child abuse content. A judge held the former police officer in contempt of court and jailed him. He challenged the indefinite incarceration in court and, after four years, effectively won that battle. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the defendant’s favor, temporarily freeing him. The case continued with the (ample) evidence the government had already obtained.