A German programmer accused of running an illegal movie streaming site more than a decade ago transferred $2.17 billion worth of bitcoins to authorities to repay some of the money he earned illegally, police said Tuesday. Had done. The transfer required the individual to use their unique Bitcoin credentials to hand over the funds.
“This is the most extensive seizure of Bitcoin ever by law enforcement in the Federal Republic of Germany,” said K. Anders, a spokesman for the Saxony state police. Mr Anders said the money would remain in the officers’ Bitcoin account until the court decided what to do with it.
The man, identified only as a 40-year-old German national, and his business partner are being investigated over allegations that they ran what was once the country’s most successful illegal video-sharing site.
In its heyday, from 2008 to 2013, the site movie2k.to had thousands of movies available for download in multiple languages. Users from all over the world visited the site, making it one of the 25 most visited websites in Germany. news report those days. After it was shut down by authorities in 2013, several sites with the same name opened up to fill the void.
Authorities said that in the five years movie2k.to was active, it allowed users to illegally download about 880,000 copies of movies.
Police said the programmer took profits from the site and invested it in Bitcoin, whose price rose to more than 40,000 euros per coin.
The man who had made the large transfer several weeks earlier was arrested in 2019 and jailed for months. According to police, he has been released pending investigation as he is not a flight risk.
Authorities said the programmer has confessed to his role in the site and is working with them on the investigation, which has also been assisted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. Indictment is expected soon.
Historically, criminals have converted their ill-gotten gains into Bitcoin to avoid authorities. Cryptocurrency funds can be stored in a private digital account or even on a physical hard drive that is not monitored by a bank, making them harder to confiscate. But in recent years, law enforcement officials have become better at tracking the flow of digital currencies and linking anonymous digital accounts to people in the real world.
In this case, the individual’s willingness to cooperate in the seizure was important, as is the case with many attempts to recover cryptocurrency. Unlike regular money accounts, which are run by banks and can be seized with search warrants, Bitcoin accounts require the user’s unique login credentials.
The transfer to authorities this month was not the first time the German had given up at least a portion of his profits. In 2020, 10 months after he was first arrested, the man transferred €25 million worth of bitcoins to authorities.
David Yaffe-Bellaney Contributed reporting from San Francisco.