Government seized $2.9 Million from bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox

Emily Spaven
Aug 20, 2013 at 14:28 UTC
Updated Jan 2, 2015 at 15:10 UTC

Article updated on August 20 at 18:46 BST.

The US government seized over $2.9m from Mutum Sigillum LLC, a subsidiary of bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, a court document has revealed.

Published yesterday by GigaOM, the seizure warrant issued by the district court in Maryland details that the contents of a Dwolla account registered in the name of Mutum Sigillum LLC were to be seized.

The warrant was issued on 14th May, however, it was only filed on 19th August by US magistrate judge Susan K. Gauvey.

The inventory of property taken reads:

“Contents of Dwolla account #812-649-1010 registered in the name of Mutum Sillum LLC, held in custody of Veridian Credit Union in the amount of $2,915,507.40.”

Ars Technica obtained a copy of the seizure warrant, minus the inventory, back in May. This detailed why the US Department of Homeland Security issued the warrant.

Mutum Sigillum allegedly did not register with FinCEN as a money services business, in violation of US law, and concealed its existence as a money transmitter on its bank account application. Since then, Mt. Gox has registered as a money transmitter.

At the time of publication, Mt. Gox had not provided comment to CoinDesk.

Richard Howlett, solicitor at Selachii LLP in London, explained that, as Dwolla and Mutum Sigillum LLC are both incorporated in America, the US government has jurisdiction over the transactions and holdings of these companies.

“When a new and exciting digital currency such as bitcoin comes along, the law is a grey area, but the government will want to take full control over what they see as a threat to the US dollar,” he said.

“To this end, bitcoin companies should be concerned because the internet is changing from what was a free enterprise with little or no rules to something much more sinister. It is clear that the internet and digital currency is still the Wild West and there are opportunities for entrepreneurs and business to capitalise in this emerging new market.”

Howlett concluded that if a bitcoin company deals in any way with central bank-issued currency it shouldn’t be surprised if they are contacted by the government.

Constance Choi, general counsel at Payward Inc, said the seizure warrant seriously underscores the need to educate the public, including regulators, to distinguish bad actors engaged in illicit acts from legitimate businesses that “integrate cutting-edge emerging payments technologies that offer enormous social and economic benefits in low-cost payments”.

“It’s a shame that all the public attention centers on these few bad actors rather than the strong governance processes implemented by the best in our industry,” she added.

Choi said regulators are rightly concerned with the legitimate, emergent public policy concerns that center around AML and consumer protection. “Many participants in the industry, including Payward, have been willing to discuss these important issues without sensationalized enforcement actions, which create a chilling effect on innovations for consumers.

“These recent events just emphasize the need for greater dialogue between regulators and the industry, to holistically clarify the scope of regulations and the meaning of these laws as it applies to our new technologies, to share information about our business practices, and work together to strike a balance so that public policy concerns are addressed while allowing the tremendous benefits of this technology to reach consumers.”

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