The government of Sweden has found itself in the unusual situation of paying out around $1.5 million worth of Bitcoin to a drug dealer, whom they convicted and then jailed. Authorities are being forced to pay the man 33 BTC, after his illegally obtained bitcoin appreciated while behind bars.
A Swedish Prosecutor’s Mistake
Two years ago, a Swedish court convicted the man for selling drugs online and illegally earning 36 BTC from those sales. However, his prosecutor at the time, Tove Kullberg, used the fiat value of the coin to make her initial case.
And as a result, the court judged that the man’s illicitly earned Bitcoin should be seized, at its then-value of 1.3 million Swedish kronor ($100,000). This mistake led to the court having to pay $1.5 million to the drug dealer upon his release.
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In the two years following the man’s conviction and imprisonment, the price of bitcoin has skyrocketed. His crypto stash had appreciated significantly to more than $1.5 million. To satisfy the court’s original settlement of $100,000, the Swedish Enforcement Authority needed to sell off just 3 BTC. That leaves 33 BTC, worth $1.5 million, left from the criminal’s wallet that they must now return. The Swedish Government would have avoided this problem entirely if they had sold the 36 coins at the time of incarceration. Alternatively, if the prosecutor had reported the funds in crypto instead of dollars.
Tove Kullberg’s Reaction
Speaking to Swedish radio, Kullberg admitted that the way she chose to go about reporting the funds in dollars and not crypto was a mistake. She describes it as “unfortunate in many ways. It has led to consequences I was not able to foresee at the time.” She also added, “The lesson to be learned from this is to keep the value in Bitcoin, that the profit from the crime should be 36 Bitcoin, regardless of what value the Bitcoin has at the time.” She continued that the mistake came about because this was the first time this type of case had been seen in Swedish legal history.
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Kullberg also stressed the importance for the government to educate its workforce about the details of the crypto industry, and how it factors into court rulings. “The more we increase the level of knowledge within the organization, the fewer mistakes we will make.”
This case is a typical example of how cryptocurrencies continue to challenge legal authorities. Governments, all over the world, have been trying to understand the volatile and technical nature of cryptos. And find ways to integrate it into the legal systems.
Featured image from CoinGeek, Chart from TradingView.com
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