By David Meyer
May 29, 2018

The German authorities have just made around $14 million from the sale of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that they seized in criminal investigations.

It was an emergency sale, according to a Monday report in the Tagesspiegel newspaper, because the Bavarian justice treasury was concerned about the wild fluctuations in cryptocurrency prices. Emergency sales are usually reserved for perishable goods, such as food, or items that typically depreciate in value, such as cars.

The cryptocurrencies that were sold—1,312 Bitcoins, 1,399 Bitcoin Cash tokens, 1,312 Bitcoin Gold tokens and 220 Ether—were mostly seized in a crackdown on a platform called LuL.to, which was illegally selling copyrighted ebooks and audiobooks at very low prices. The site was seized and blocked last June, its operators were arrested and its assets went into a fund that is typically used for police resourcing.

The sale took place over a couple of months, in a series of more than 1,600 transactions on a German cryptocurrency trading platform. According to Der Tagesspiegel, the proceeds totalled just over €12 million ($13.9 million.)

The selloff began in late February, when the price of one Bitcoin had crashed from its December highs—almost $20,000—to around $11,400. Over the course of the sale, the price dipped below $7,000 and cleared $9,000 again. Since then, it has fallen again to a price of $7,230, so the cops’ timing looks pretty good for now, unless Bitcoin makes a surprising rebound in the near future.

This was a record-breaking sale of seized assets within Germany, but American authorities have been making more money off seized cryptocurrencies for a while. The Justice Department got $48 million in October last year from the sale of Bitcoins that came from Ross “Dread Pirate Roberts” Ulbricht. The sale actually took place a couple years earlier, when one Bitcoin was worth a mere $330 or so, but Ulbricht, the operator of the Silk Road online drug market, had challenged the legality of the forfeiture and took a while to drop his claim.

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