German law enforcement seized 50,000 bitcoins, valued at approximately $2.1 billion, allegedly earned through the operation of an illegal movie streaming website. With the price of bitcoin reaching $43,500 on Tuesday, this could be the largest ever crypto seizure by German authorities, Saxony prosecutors said.
One of the suspects voluntarily transferred the bitcoin to the wallet of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) “to make up for the damage.” The money will remain in the BKA’s crypto account until a court determines how it will be used, prosecutors said.
The police did not disclose the name of the website in their latest press release, but it was identified during a 2020 investigation as Movie2k, “the most popular German streaming platform for pirated movies.”
Founded in 2008, Movie2k distributed over 880,000 copies of pirated films. It was among the most-visited websites in Germany at that time. Its administrators earned money through advertising fees and subscriptions.
The police suspect that a 40-year-old German citizen and a 37-year-old Polish citizen acquired the bitcoin with revenues from the website until it was shut down in 2013.
One of the Movie2k operators, who cooperated with the police and agreed to transfer his crypto, is a programmer and real estate entrepreneur from Berlin. He has been in custody since November 2019, suspected of commercial money laundering. In 2020, the whereabouts of the second operator are unknown.
The ongoing investigation, supported by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), focuses on the illegal sharing of copyrighted work and money laundering.
“All further information will be provided once the investigation is completed,” the police said. According to Patrick Pintaske, the spokesman for the public prosecutor’s office in Dresden, as of yet no charges have been brought against the suspects.
Cryptocurrency is often used by criminals to store and transfer substantial sums of money stolen from victims. Currently, the U.S. government stands as one of the world’s largest holders of crypto assets seized from cybercriminals and darknet markets, having confiscated almost 200,000 bitcoins, valued at more than $8 billion, since 2020.