British cops have raised £240,000 in their first ever UK-based auction of cryptocurrencies understood to have been seized from former TalkTalk hacker Elliot Gunton , who'd "earned" it selling hacking services and flogging people's stolen personal details online.
The sell-off of Bitcoin, Ripple and Ether to the highest bidder ran for 24 hours from noon on 25 September as part of the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit's (ERSOU) asset recovery process.
The assets were said to have had a fluctuating value of up to £500,000 and were spread across various sized lots.
Gunton's wallet contained over £400k worth of Bitcoin at the time of the seizure.
The bidders for the digital currency were vetted by ERSOU's procured asset management and realisation contractors, we are told, to ensure only ethical buyers participated and the crypto-coins stayed out of the hands of criminals, for the time being at least.
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"This historic auction should help us instill the public's confidence in our open, transparent system to recoup the proceeds of crime in a secure and innovative way," said detective chief inspector Martin Peters of ERSOU's cyber crime division.
"Asset recovery in a digital world has evolved, so it's really important that, working alongside commercial partners, we have a clear process for the storage of the cryptocurrency," he added in the statement.
Wilson's Auctions was fully insured to store the assets on behalf of the police before the sales process kicked off. This is the second time it has been involved in a crypto-cash auction: the first was in March, when it sold some 315 Bitcoin on behalf of a private company.
Aidan Larkin, asset recovery director at the auctioneer, said this was the first such sale of Bitcoin "under the instruction of a UK police force" and claimed to have received worldwide interest.
He said it received over 7,500 bids from "as far as Brazil, Australian, Dubai, USA, Canada and Singapore".
There was no reserve on the Bitcoin lot that fetched £240,000. Larkin said that given the roller-coaster nature of Bitcoin valuations, he decided to break the coins into lots.
Both Australian and American cops have been auctioning off crypto-coins over the past few years. In 2016, Aussie police and the US marshals flogged off $11.5m and $1.6m worth of Bitcoin respectively. The American auction saw off blockchained loot once belonging to dark web souk Silk Road's boss, the Dread Pirate Roberts, aka Ross Ulbricht, among others.
Earlier this year, Surrey Police became the first force in the UK to have succeeded in having Bitcoin confiscated by a court, worth £1.25m.
With the cops scrambling for budget after years of cuts, cryptocurrency auctions like this might be just the fillip the police need. Let's hope this helps the Home Office avoid having to dip into cops' IT budget. Just hold onto your Airwaves, peeps. ®