back to article Crown Prosecution Service is coming for crooks' cryptocurrency

"If criminals believe they can hide their ill-gotten assets online they are very much mistaken." That was the warning from Nick Price, head of the UK Crown Prosecution Service's proceeds of crime unit, who told The Register the agency had "already secured" a confiscation order for digital currency assets and "would expect more …

  1. Rono666

    Another word for confiscation is steal. We all know stealing is wrong..

    1. Mark 110

      Or this:

      http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/new-fund-means-criminal-cash-4922228

      http://lancashire-pcc.gov.uk/our-money/grant-funding/commissioners-poca-grants/

      http://cashbackforcommunities.org/

      Looks like this is happening everywhere.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I prefer peculate because I like coffee.

      1. handleoclast

        Peculate

        @AC

        I wonder how many are going to understand that joke without looking it up, or even thought to look it up. I knew the word, but most probably thought either you couldn't spell "percolate" when you posted a non sequitur or wondered why you were speculating about coffee.

        1. phuzz Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Peculate

          I just assumed that AC preferred coffee because as we all know, proper tea is theft.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Once the speculators try to take their profits and the Bitcoin bubble bursts they might not find they get anything like what they expected to have confiscated.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      they get anything like what they expected to have confiscated.

      That's the nice thing, you accuse the accused of having 1000btc and demand that they surrender $10M, bitcoin drops to $10 you still have the court order demanding $10M.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        No, they'd demand you surrender 1000 bitcoin.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      It's pretty much the same as if someone had used their ill-gotten gains to buy US dollars or any other foreign currency, the values of which go up and down compared to the pound.

      It's not about the government gaining someone's money, it's about depriving a criminal of the proceeds of their crime After all, it's not like you'd expect a thief to be locked up, but still allowed to keep the things they'd nicked when they get out, is it?

  3. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    So what happens if they get a confiscation order for some bitcoin the day after they are sold to, let's say, a pension fund? Surely at that point they can't still confiscate the bitcoin as the pension fund would be out of pocket?

    I don't have a point here, just wondering what would happen if they confiscated from an innocent third party who bought the cryptocurrency in good faith.

    1. iron Silver badge

      Illegal goods are illegal goods, the law does not care who owns them now and they would still confiscate the cryptocurrency.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Illegal goods are illegal goods, the law does not care who owns them now and they would still confiscate the cryptocurrency.

        So you are saying that the law can confiscate real money from anyone because some lowlife may have held it for some time before it moved on.

        If that is the case we are all in danger of having any cash we have being taken from us at any time.

        1. Commswonk Silver badge

          If that is the case we are all in danger of having any cash we have being taken from us at any time.

          No change there, then, unfortunately. Gov.uk is always looking for methods of getting its sticky fingers on citizens' funds.

        2. Aitor 1 Silver badge

          Not in Spain

          In Spain and many other countries, having stolen goods is illegal IF you know they are stolen or have/should have reasonable grounds to suspect that.

          BUT if you adquire it in good faith and with an onerous transaction, the authorities cannot confiscate it in those grounds.

          As far as I know, the same happens in the US, one of the reasons that they can buy stolen art at auctions and not return it.

        3. Mark 85 Silver badge

          :If that is the case we are all in danger of having any cash we have being taken from us at any time.

          In certain states here in the US... yes, be afraid, be very afraid. The local cops are taking cash from people they pull over on a regular basis using the "unknown origin" claim or "possible illegal activity". And it's damn hard to get the money back. A quick Google or two on "cops seizing money", "police seizing money" and the like should keep you busy for several hours.

      2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        "

        Illegal goods are illegal goods, the law does not care who owns them now and they would still confiscate the cryptocurrency.

        "

        Does that mean that if a criminal bought a car from his ill-gotten gains, the police could demand that the car dealer hand over the money that was used to pay for the car? Could they chase around every shop the criminal bought something and demand the return of the money used for the purchases?

        1. WolfFan Silver badge

          "Illegal goods are illegal goods, the law does not care who owns them now and they would still confiscate the cryptocurrency."

          Does that mean that if a criminal bought a car from his ill-gotten gains, the police could demand that the car dealer hand over the money that was used to pay for the car? Could they chase around every shop the criminal bought something and demand the return of the money used for the purchases?

          They could. They won't, it's far too much trouble, and would cause far too much ill-will among far too many people. But they could, if they really wanted to stick it to someone.

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          "Does that mean that if a criminal bought a car from his ill-gotten gains, the police could demand that the car dealer hand over the money that was used to pay for the car?"

          No, they'd confiscate the car from the criminal (and potentially sell it at a police auction if the crim was convicted).

    2. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

      The day my pension fund starts investing in bitcoins, I move all my savings somewhere else.

      1. cb7

        Are you telling us you actually have a pension fund that's still growing?

        Pray do tell us what it's called?

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Well if his pension fund was investing in bitcoins it probably would be growing, at least until the bitcoin bubble pops.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Pop?

            The Bitcoin bubble is going to pop again? Why, it just popped the other day. Again. I can't keep up...

    3. Lee D Silver badge

      This is why you don't handle stolen goods.

      It's not only opening you to a charge if you're doing so knowingly, but even done unknowingly, you can lose out big time.

      No different to buying a car only to find out it still has finance / is stolen. That car technically belongs to someone else and you shouldn't be in possession of it at all. Even if you paid a million pounds for it, you lose it all and the owner gets the car back.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        This is why you don't handle stolen goods.... No different to buying a car only to find out it still has finance / is stolen

        So if BP does something illegal the govt can confiscate the shares of BP from any pension fund that holds them?

        1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

          So if BP does something illegal the govt can confiscate the shares of BP from any pension fund that holds them?

          No, but they can fine BP or confiscate some of their assets, which will logically decrease the value of the shares in the fund.

    4. James 51 Silver badge

      Money is not a 'good'. Which does raise the question if bitcoin is money, lots of legal fees to be charged over that one.

      1. Mark 110

        Bitcoin probably doesn't fall under the legal definition of money. Therefore its a good.

        1. Desgrippes

          It is treated as a type of foreign currency or private money in the eyes of the law in the UK.

      2. Ben Liddicott

        Money is Goods

        Theft Act 1968, 34(2)(b)

        “goods”, except in so far as the context otherwise requires, includes money and every other description of property except land, and includes things severed from the land by stealing

    5. DougS Silver badge

      So what happens if they get a confiscation order for some bitcoin the day after they are sold to, let's say, a pension fund?

      They'd confiscated the proceeds of the sale of those bitcoin, i.e. dollars, stock, art, whatever. The confiscation order is against the criminal to get at the proceeds of the crime. If a criminal gets $1 million in a suitcase for selling some drugs, and then gives me that $1 million in a suitcase to buy my house, then the criminal would surrender my house which has become the proceeds of that crime.

      The only way I have to surrender the $1 million is if I was involved in a crime myself - i.e. they deliberately overpaid for the house because I was going to launder that money through a cash business, or I reported the sale for $500K and planned to avoid taxes on the other $500K.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >So what happens if they get a confiscation order for some bitcoin the day after they are sold to, let's say, a pension fund?

      Not how it works - in the Surrey case the Bitcoin had already been seized and transferred to a police wallet - then there was a hearing to determine if they would be confiscated or returned.

      [Crim in question had done an Eccles with his recovery phrase]

  4. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    Legal may not be possible ...

    The only way to remove funds from a blockchain is to give the correct cryptographic details needed to get it agreed by the network.

    If the person slapped with the order simply cannot access those details (say they are multi-part, and require people outside the jurisdiction to act) then the authorities simply can't have.

    I presume there would have to be a change in the law which would allow he authorities to then pursue the operators of the blockchain, at which point you start to realise why blockchain *is* different. As in good luck finding the operators of the blockchain. You can find individual nodes. You may even be able to jail those who are in your jurisdiction for "not assisting". But you *still* won't get your money.

    1. James 51 Silver badge

      Re: Legal may not be possible ...

      The CPS would probably perfer putting people in jail over getting the money, no matter how teniously they are connected to anything.

    2. Desgrippes

      Re: Legal may not be possible ...

      Yep, people are still to learn that the idea of jurisdiction becomes largely defunct when dealing with cryptocurrencies themselves.

  5. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Big Brother

    also of note: UK burden of proof.

    When it comes to property confiscation, it's up to the citizen to prove they are the legal owner, not the state to prove illegality.

    If you car caught with a plastic bag with £10,000 pounds in it, and have no way of proving it's yours, you can kiss goodbye to it. One of the handy by-products of the War on Terror/War on Drugs.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: also of note: UK burden of proof.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/11/23/cops-took-more-stuff-from-people-than-burglars-did-last-year/

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: also of note: UK burden of proof.

      f you car caught with a plastic bag with £10,000 pounds in it, and have no way of proving it's yours, you can kiss goodbye to it.

      IIRC the "critical mass" is rather less than that - something like £500. And again (IIRC, but not from experience!) if you are caught and convicted of drug dealing* then your bank account can be examined and contents confiscated following an Order of the Court.

      I think it has as much to do with "money laundering" as anything else, which is something of a catch - all.

      * Other offences are available.

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Keep IT Simple is Complex Enough ..... and a Loded Virtual Mind Mine Field/Mine Mind Field

    Cryptocurrencies are the medium of value exchange and shared wealth of virtual worlds in which extant establishment regulation authorities have no jurisdiction nor prior knowledge with which to subvert direction and/or influence growth/further future development and progress.

    Or do they imagine that they would command and control such a futures derivative in order to benefit themselves and disadvantage others who would Pioneer Pay to Play Players/Greater IntelAIgent Gamers in ...... well, they are CyberIntelAIgent Space Places and Live Operational Virtual Environments for Global Operating Devices, are they not?

    That is surely Alien Territory, and with AI Systems and Services, a SMARTR Virtual Team Terrain? And IT does not Tolerate or Promote Fools in Any Such and All Similar Fields that Work both at Rest and in Play via Remote Virtual Transactions/Quantum Instruction.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Keep IT Simple is Complex Enough ..... and a Loded Virtual Mind Mine Field/Mine Mind Field

      They just can't stop themselves from trying to help themselves to anything which has a rewarding value, can they? ...... http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-12-01/bitcoin-jumps-above-10k-after-cftc-approves-futures-trading-first-trade-take-place-d

      New Different Game and Leading Players ..... New Different Rules and EMPowering Titans?

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Keep IT Simple is Complex Enough ..... and a Loded Virtual Mind Mine Field/Mine Mind Field

        And whenever you think to regulate, do you imagine an exclusive in-house command and remote executive control facility which naturally creates a competing opposition/a them and us division which is fraught with all manner of unnecessary difficulties with phantom hurdles to invent.

        Given the right hash and increasingly catastrophically vulnerable state of extant fiat currencies, which be currently regulated and administered to by the same authorities as would now be floating themselves as honest brokers for cryptocurrencies, one wonders at their proposed direction of future travel for such as are Advanced Progressive Utilities ...... for surely it is easily recognised that cryptocurrency is but one initial program be introduced for AIdVentures in Virtually Realised Productions for Live Operational Virtual Environments with Global Operating Devices Servering Support/Advanced ACTive Mentoring and Super Dynamic Monitoring.

        And quite why anyone sane would wish to invent unnecessary difficulties is a leading question to be answered, not least by those and that proposing adding hurdles.

        It sure aint smart, and is to boot real stupid.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Keep IT Simple is Complex Enough ..... and a Loded Virtual Mind Mine Field/Mine Mind Field

          It has been, and continues to be, a wild, uncontrolled and incredibly speculative asset - one that has the potential to either change the financial world for all time, or possibly be the greatest scam we have seen since the Tulip mania.

          I lean towards the former, but remember this always: there are powerful forces actively working against Bitcoin and its success - forces that will not take this change and threat to their fiat power lying down. .... http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-11-30/bitcoin-rockets-higher-then-crashes-lower-then-repeats

          Where stand El Regers on that fence? Are you ACTively for IT or strangely against it?

          Or neither and none of the above with a resigned indifference and complicit acceptance of what will be, will be, resulting in one not being interested or bothered to venture an opinion/position?

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    The UK proceeds of crime act is AFAIK the only UK law where the burden of proof means you have to prove you are innocent rather than the CPS prove you are guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

    As others mentioned the threshold is about 500 quid in cash where the cops can confiscate the money and then its up to you to prove you didn't steal the money or make the money from criminal activity.

    Its a slippery slope when you have one law that switches the burden of proof onto the defendant, before you know it that creeps into other laws and you end up with you law being guilty unless you can prove your innocent.

    1. Justin Case

      We're all guilty now

      the threshold is about 500 quid in cash where the cops can confiscate the money

      Outrageous and utterly predictable. Still this must be the world we want. Thanks to Michael Howard, Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, John Reid, Jacqui Smith, Alan Johnson, Theresa May, Amber Rudd. A roll call of shame, if ever there was one. Chisellers and oppressors they are to a (wo)man. Is there one decent, uncorrupt name on that list?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >AFAIK the only UK law where the burden of proof means you have to prove you are innocent

      This is actually the case with most summary prosecutions - notably camera evidenced motoring offences. IAATI estimate 1 in 12 UK vehicles have cloned number plates, nonetheless they have essentially the same legal status as fingerprints when it comes to conviction.

  8. BitCoward

    Follow the money

    Doesn't confiscating BitC also allow plod to make like Linda Lovelace and follow the money? The whole, we know where you've been aspect of blockchain could provide some useful evidence.

    Let's hope Bannon paid the Russian's FB bills in BitC.

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