A judge has ordered the seizure of bitcoin worth more than £900k from a hacker that is currently in jail.
Grant West had about £1m-worth of the cryptocurrency impounded from numerous accounts after he was arrested in late 2017, but the value of bitcoin has since fluctuated drastically, making it hard to compensate victims.
Progress in Southwark crown court on Friday morning was temporarily suspended as the order signed by West agreeing to the seizure of the cryptocurrency related to a higher amount than that which was .
Eventually saying the order under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the judge, Joanna Korner QC, said: “I therefore order a confiscation of that amount, £915,305.77, to be paid as a way of compensation to the losers.”
Korner said that West would spend an additional four years in jail if he refused. He has agreed without hesitation.
UK authorities have been in possession of 82 bitcoin previously obtained by West through criminal activity since before him being sentenced. Unlike fiat currencies, there is no centralised exchange rate for the currency, which rose in value to almost £18k a bitcoin in late 2017 before falling below £7k in early 2018.
The value of the seized Bitcoins was calculated on Friday at a rate of about £8,5k a bitcoin.
“Inevitably in any case like this there will have to be a further hearing after this,” the prosecuting counsel, Kevin Barry, told the court. “As the court recognises today, as do the parties, there is likely to be fluctuation which will require in due course for the order to be amended upwards or downwards.”
The Metropolitan authorities also seized way smaller amount in other cryptos, including ethereum and bitcoin cash, after a long investigation, codenamed Operation Draba.
About £200k in bitcoin has been held by the FBI under its own investigation, and was frozen on the request of the Crown Prosecution Service, Barry told reporters.
Although police was already in control of the earnings, the defendant must agree to the default sentence because he may have refused to give away the assets.
In May 2018, West was sentenced to roughly 11 years in prison for a number of cybercrimes such as unauthorised modification of PC material, conspiracy to defraud and possession of criminal property.
Using the online identity “Courvoisier”, he attempted many cyber-attacks over two and a half years on more than 100 companies and organisations worldwide.
He sold the information on the dark web. Officers discovered about 78 million individual usernames and passwords along with 63,000 credit and debit card details stored on an flash drive that was later found in his appartment.