Hundreds of thousands of bitcoins have been seized in an anti-corruption operation in Bulgaria, reports Zerohedge. They are currently worth $3.6 billion, which is enough to pay off a fifth of the country’s national debt of $16.5 billion.
Dozens of people were arrested in May following an investigation by the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELC) into an alleged customs fraud, according to the article.
Police confiscated 213,519 bitcoins, at the time worth $500 million. The seized amount is now approximately worth a staggering $3.6 billion due to the digital currency’s bull run.
The operation involved a large-scale search of “more than 100 addresses, suspects, and vehicles,” according to SELC. Out of the 23 suspects arrested, five were Bulgarian customs officers. Police seized “equipment, devices for communication, computers, tablets, and bank documents.”
“The organized criminal group consisted of Bulgarian nationals with connections in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Romania, and Serbia,” said SELC.
According to police, the group recruited “corrupted customs officers in all involved countries with the purpose to infiltrate a virus in the customs’ computerized systems.”
“Once the virus was installed, the offenders were able to change shipments, so in the customs’ system it appeared the cargo was already checked and passed.”
SELC has suggested, “the offenders choose bitcoin as a way of investing/saving the money, because it is rather difficult to be tracked and followed.”
The world’s most valuable cryptocurrency bitcoin hit its all-time high of $18,000 last week. Its rise in value this year has been dramatic as the token was worth less than $1,000 on January 1. The combined value of all the bitcoins in circulation has already exceeded the annual output of entire economies such as Portugal and Qatar.
On Monday, bitcoin was trading at $16,669, according to CoinMarketCap.