UK law enforcement has seized nearly half a billion dollars worth of bitcoin in the last five years, according to a report from the New Scientist.
A quarter of the UK’s 48 police forces have found cryptocurrencies — almost all of which was bitcoin — amounting to £322 million, or $435 million, according to the New Scientist, which submitted Freedom of Information requests to the departments to obtain the data.
London Metropolitan Police discovered most of the illicit bitcoin, seizing £294 million, or $398 million, of that total, while the Greater Manchester Police seized £25 million, or $34 million.
In one high profile case in June, the London Metropolitan Police seized a record £114 million, or $154, worth of cryptocurrencies. Just a month later, the same department set another new record when it retrieved a whopping £180 million, or $249 million, according to a CNBC report at the time.
While bitcoin made up 99.9% of the digital assets seized in the UK, law enforcement also discovered ethereum, monero, dash, and zcash, the New Scientist said.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been popular tool among criminals due to difficulties tracing accounts and holders of the assets.
In the US the Justice Department seized $56 million worth of cryptocurrency in November related to the massive BitConnect crypto scam in which its promoters swindled thousands of people out of $2 billion worth of bitcoin in 2017. In December, US and Japanese law enforcement seized 3,879 bitcoins, now worth about $167 million, after a worker at Sony Life Insurance Company in Tokyo embezzled funds from her employer.
A new report from Chainalysis found crypto crimes — especially “rug pulls” in which developers abandon their cryptocurrency projects and disappear with users’ funds — surged 81% to nearly $8 billion in 2021.