Where’s the Bitcoin? Bulgarian MP grills gov’t over seizure now worth $8B
A crusading member of Bulgaria’s parliament wants to track down Bitcoin seized by police in 2017 worth more than $3 billion at the time.
IT specialist, entrepreneur, and member of Da, Bulgaria! (Yes, Bulgaria!) Ivaylo Mirchev bluntly asked “where’s the money?” when petitioning the country’s minister of internal affairs Boyko Rashkov via email last week.
Mirchev is trying to establish the whereabouts of 213,519 BTC, which has seen its value balloon to $8 billion since its confiscation.
Police reportedly took the Bitcoin from a gang of Bulgarian nationals leveraging computer viruses and bribes to avoid a total of $6 million in customs fees when importing goods to the country.
The crew bought Bitcoin with its ill-gotten gains to preserve their revenue in a way that was more difficult to track, said authorities shortly after the seizure.
“As there is some confusion regarding the topic of confiscated Bitcoin […], I sent questions to ministers Rashkov (Minister of Internal Affairs) and Bojanov (Minister of E-Gov),” wrote Mirchev via Facebook on Monday.
In his email, Mirchev demanded to know specifically how much crypto was seized, how it was captured, where it’s now stored, and whether authorities have the private keys required to access it.
He also requested an update on the case, which was dubbed Operation SHIPMENT/VIRUS, as well as the status of any related evidence.
“Has any evidence been disposed of so far and if so, what disposition, when and for what reason, are they currently available as evidence in the case, and are they available to the prosecution?” he added.
The ministers contacted have seven days to respond to Mirchev’s request.
Bulgaria says it sold the Bitcoin to buy planes
The confusion Mirchev cited in his email surrounds claims that, following the seizure of the Bitcoin in question, the Bulgarian government had suddenly become one of the world’s largest Bitcoin holders.
A press release issued by the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELEC) shortly after the operation was cited years later in media speculation about the size of Bulgaria’s Bitcoin reserves.
The SELEC first reported the Bitcoin was worth just $500 million.
Speaking to Bulgarian publication Bivol in 2017, the country’s then-finance minister Vladislav Goranov claimed the BTC was sold in batches to avoid disrupting the market.
Read more: [What happened to the Lifeboat Foundation’s Bitcoin Endowment Fund?]
Indeed, the government’s official line is that the Bitcoin was already offloaded in a secret auction.
A number of Asian investors and sovereign wealth funds reportedly purchased the stash for €15,000 ($16,900) per coin, valuing the total haul at over $3.6 billion.
The government claims it decided to splash the funds raised on a new squadron of planes for Bulgaria’s military.
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