Irish drug dealer loses £46m bitcoin codes he hid in fishing rod case
This article is more than 1 year old
Clifton Collins fears fishing gear was taken to dump by his landlord after he was jailed
Collins used the proceeds of dealing cannabis to buy 6,000 bitcoin, when the cryptocurrency’s value was relatively low. Photograph: Dado Ruvić/ReutersRory Carroll Ireland correspondent@rorycarroll72Fri 21 Feb 2020 13.31 GMT
Last modified on Fri 21 Feb 2020 17.31 GMT
In early 2017 Clifton Collins, an Irish drug dealer, had a dilemma: where to hide the codes of his illicit €55m (£46m) bitcoin fortune.
His solution was to print them on to an A4 piece of paper and stash it in the aluminium cap of a fishing rod case kept at his rented home in Farnaught, Cornamona, County Galway. It seemed a good idea at the time.
Then three things happened. Police arrested Collins after finding €2,000 worth of cannabis in his car. He was sentenced to five years in jail. The landlord of the Galway house had it cleared out, resulting in Collins’ possessions being taken to a dump.
The codes are now missing, meaning the accounts cannot be accessed.
According to the Irish Times, which first reported the story, workers at the dump told the Irish police force, the gardaí, they remembered seeing discarded fishing gear. Waste from the dump goes to Germany and China to be incinerated. The fishing rod case has never been found.
Collins, 49, has apparently told the gardaí he has come to terms with the loss of the fortune and considers it punishment for his own stupidity.
The high court in Dublin ruled this week that Collins had forfeited the accounts because they were proceeds from crime.
Originally from Crumlin, a working-class district of Dublin, Collins worked as a security guard and a beekeeper – he won awards for his honey – before cultivating cannabis full-time from around 2005.Q&A
What is bitcoin?
He used rented properties around Ireland, including the house in Galway, to grow crops, which he harvested, packaged and sold in Dublin.
Collins used the proceeds to buy 6,000 bitcoin in late 2011 and early 2012 when the fledgling cryptocurrency’s value hovered around $5.
Amid wild gyrations its value rocketed. Bitcoin is currently worth $9,673 £7,524). To protect his fortune from hackers Collins spread it across 12 accounts, each with 500 bitcoin. Then he stored the codes in what is probably history’s most costly aluminium cap.
According to the Irish Times, the gardaí believe he has genuinely lost the codes.
The ultimate loser may be the Irish state. The Criminal Assets Bureau thought it had hit the jackpot when it confiscated the accounts. “The mnemonic key for the bitcoin is unable to be accessed at this stage,” said a gardaí spokesman. Authorities hope they may some day gain access.
Collins had codes to additional bitcoin accounts valued at €1.5m. Those, plus more than €100,000 in cash, have been seized.
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