Finnish Authorities Have $15M in Seized Bitcoin but Don’t Want to Sell It

Finland's confiscated bitcoin horde is now worth more than $15 million.

AccessTimeIconFeb 26, 2020 at 10:40 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 12:21 p.m. UTC
10 Years of Decentralizing the Future
May 29-31, 2024 - Austin, TexasThe biggest and most established global event for everything crypto, blockchain and Web3.Register Now

Finland's customs agency has been struggling with what to do with a horde of bitcoin (BTC) it fears could end up back in the hands of criminals if sold off.

Finnish Customs, known locally as Tulli, has been trying to offload a total of 1,666 bitcoin for several years, even drawing up a plan in September 2018 for a public auction of the digital coins. But officials have concerns that a sale would attract the wrong kind of attention and could even put the agency's own security at risk.

Speaking to local media, Tulli Director Pekka Pylkkanen said: "From our point of view, the problems are specifically related to the risk of money laundering. The buyers of [cryptocurrency] rarely use them for normal endeavors."

Tulli confiscated the bitcoin trove following a successful bust of an online dark market in September 2016. At the time, bitcoin traded at around $570, meaning the 1,666 BTC was worth approximately $950,000. With prices now just under $9,200, it's worth closer to $15 million, according to CoinDesk's Bitcoin Price Index.

At bitcoin's all-time peak near $20,000 in December 2017, the cache would have been worth almost $33 million.

Tulli isn't the only government authority having to decide what to do with confiscated bitcoin, usually with dollar-values many times greater than when they were first seized. The U.S. government, which has seized hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bitcoin over the years, has hosted multiple online auctions for confiscated bitcoin.

Bitcoin confiscated by the Belgian authorities was sold by an online auction house in early 2019. Later that year, U.K. police used the same auctioneer to sell more than $290,000 worth of cryptocurrency it had seized from a teenage hacker.

In 2018, the Finnish government barred customs officials from trying to sell seized bitcoin on exchanges or trading platforms, instead ordering the agency to hold any confiscated digital assets in a secure cold storage solution.

Pylkkanen's claim that most crypto holders use them for illicit purposes isn't supported by the numbers. A November report from blockchain analytics firm Elliptic suggested $829 million in bitcoin, just 0.5 percent of all transactions, were linked to the dark web.

Disclosure

Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies 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 with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.


Learn more about Consensus 2024, CoinDesk's longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to consensus.coindesk.com to register and buy your pass now.