As Bitcoin rises and falls in popularity and price, laws and regulations scramble on how to treat it. Since Bitcoin isn’t just a normal currency, authorities cannot police it as such.
The lack of regulations, coupled with the anonymity of Bitcoin, has led to it being used for activities that are, well, less than legal. Money laundering and buying drugs are the two most popular illegal uses of Bitcoin, but they aren’t the only ones.
These also happen to be two of the crimes that Grant West, a notorious cybercriminal in Britain, was convicted of committing, among many more. Before he was caught, West used Bitcoin to stay anonymous and carry out cyberattacks on numerous companies around the world.
The Investigation and Its Findings
The investigation of West was led by Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Gallagher, head of the Serious and Organized Crime Command unit of the Metropolitan Police.
The first reported number of websites that West launched attacks on was 17, but further investigations have found that the number of websites attacked is actually well over 100.
West was also responsible for obtaining the personal data of approximately 78 million people, mostly through phishing emails. This also includes the credit card information of about 63,000 people.
So please, if you get an unrecognized email asking for your personal information, don’t respond. This statement may seem painfully obvious to some, but it’s clearly not a consensus. Criminals like Grant West make their money from people who respond to these kinds of emails.
Speaking of his money, West’s physical currency was seized after his arrest, along with his favored digital currency, Bitcoin.
The Bitcoin seized was worth around £500,000, or about $673,550. The actual number of Bitcoin seized was not reported, but at the time of writing, it would probably be around 81.5.
West’s arrest and Bitcoin seizure marks a great milestone for legal authorities in their fight against the illegal use, or the use, of Bitcoin.
After the arrest, Mick Gallagher reportedly stated that cybercriminals can no longer operate with impunity from the law.
To the Metropolitan Police, this is a big deal. Gallagher expressed exactly why this is a big deal in his previous statement.
This sets up a future where cybercriminals operating in Britain can have their Bitcoin seized after their arrest.
This was not previously the case, at least, not in Britain. In the United States however, over 140,000 Bitcoin were seized from the Silk Road after Ross Ulbricht was arrested. Although, this happened a little under four years after his arrest, after a lengthy and bureaucratic process.
These major cases make great publicity for the fight against illegal Bitcoin use quite a bit. This is very important considering two main factors. The first factor is that legal authorities not only in Britain, but worldwide, aren’t winning this fight.
The second factor is that illegal Bitcoin use is becoming more and more of a problem as time goes on. Current research suggests that nearly half of all Bitcoin use is for illegal purposes.
West has already admitted to the 10 crimes charged against him and is pleading guilty in court. He will be facing sentencing later this month for one charge of computer hacking, four charges of the possession and supply of cannabis, two charges for conspiring to defraud, one charge of using Bitcoin to launder money and two charges for possessing criminal property.
West’s girlfriend, Rachael Brooks, is being charged with crimes as well. She was an accomplice to his activities and was facing one charge of unauthorized computer use.
She pleaded guilty as well, but avoided jail time in exchange for a two-year community service order and a three-month curfew.
The U.K. intends to follow through on their proposed plans to crackdown on criminals using Bitcoin. From the West case, it can be seen that they’re clearly trying to do just that.
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