A crackdown on organized crime by Bulgarian law enforcement in May resulted in the seizure of more than 200,000 bitcoins – an amount worth more than $3 billion at today's prices.
dated May 19 from the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELEC), a regional organization comprised of 12 member states including Bulgaria, a total of 213,519 bitcoins were seized that month. Twenty-three Bulgarian nationals were arrested during the operation, and officials said at the time that the arrests and subsequent asset seizures followed an investigation into an alleged customs fraud scam.
As of press time, the amount seized is worth approximately $3.3 billion, at a price of roughly $15,524, according to CoinDesk's Bitcoin Price Index (BPI).
Authorities commented at the time:
They further alleged that those involved developed a virus which was used to hack into Bulgarian Customs computers, allowing the perpetrators to skip paying fees when transporting goods into the country. The virus was uploaded to government machines by bribed agents, according to the release.
In all, the alleged perpetrators avoided paying some 10 million leva (Bulgaria's national currency), worth roughly $6 million.
What remains unclear at this time is what the Bulgarian government is doing with the seized bitcoins.
According to a report from Bivol.bg from Nov. 28, the Bulgarian government declined to release further details, citing an ongoing criminal investigation.
Notable in the May 19 release is a notation that, at the time it was published, a single bitcoin was worth $2,354. The release stated that the total amount seized was worth $500 million – less than one-sixth of its current value today.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.