A Welsh bitcoin investor who accidentally lost 8,000 bitcoin a decade ago after throwing the hard drive into the trash is now threatening to sue the local council overseeing the landfill it’s in and potentially bankrupt them, as he seeks to win $557 million in legal fees.
Newport City Council (NCC) has repeatedly said no to James Howells’ request to dig up the landfill and search for his bitcoin. However, as reported by the Telegraph, Howells is preparing to sue the council and stop them from carrying out other works on the site.
The proposed lawsuit aims to secure £446 million ($557 million) in damages, a value that matches the highest recorded price of his lost bitcoin. By asking for this amount, Howells is threatening to bankrupt NCC, saying that the recently declared bankrupt Birmingham City Council would “not be the only Labour-run council to go bankrupt” this year.
“I’ve tried everything I can for 10 years, they didn’t want to play ball, so now we have to go down the legal route,” he said.
In the open letter he sent to the council on September 4, Howells demanded they let him begin his landfill excavation work by September 18. He’s also asking for a judicial review into the lawfulness of the council’s decisions throughout the bitcoin landfill ordeal.
Bitcoin landfill dig? Still a no from the council
James lost the BTC in 2013 after cleaning out his old office and throwing his bitcoin cold wallet into the trash. The 8,000 bitcoin was worth £446 million at its highest and roughly £166 million ($207 million) today.
For 10 years the council has not budged on its position, refusing Howells pleas to recover the lost bitcoin which the council says “may or may not be in our landfill site.”
A spokesperson said, “The council has told Mr. Howells multiple times that excavation is not possible under our environmental permit, and that work of that nature would have a huge negative environmental impact on the surrounding area.”
“We will be offering no further comments on this issue as it takes up valuable officer time which could be spent on delivering services for the residents of Newport.”
In 2022, Howells claimed to secure enough funding for the dig which documents from his legal team estimate would cost £11 million ($13.7 million).
He attempted to sway the council by promising 10% of his found bitcoin to be used in turning Newport into a “crypto-mecca.” He promised:
- £50 to be given to every person in the city of Newport,
- the installation of crypto-based terminals in every city shop, and
- the creation of renewable energy infrastructure to power a “community owned” bitcoin mining facility which Newport could profit from.
These promises, however, may not be welcomed by the residents of Newport if Howells does indeed bankrupt the Newport city council.
“Do [NCC] want to spend £10,000 an hour to stop me digging a hole? How can you explain that to the taxpayers of Newport in the current climate?” he said.