Police authorities accidentally discovered $1.64 million worth of cryptocurrencies belonging to a local gangster in Surrey. The Surrey Police have become the first authority in the UK to seize and retain bitcoin in an investigation. Some of the proceeds from the sale of the confiscated digital currencies will be added to the budget of the police force.
Surrey Police Seize Bitcoin
In April 2017, Seregjs Teresko apparently went missing from his Virginia Water house. His girlfriend reported the matter to Surrey Police, who then began a search for him. They began by investigating his rented house. The authorities were shocked to see that the Latvian citizen had converted his house into a huge cannabis factory.
Seregjs Teresko, a senior member of an organized crime gang, safely returned home the next day. In the search carried out by police authorities, they found $345,000 in cash stored in a box. A number of luxury digital watches were also found during the raid.
The accused had no formal source of income but drove a Range Rover Evoque. Surrey Police also found a set of private keys to a bitcoin wallet. They discovered 295 BTC stored within it. As part of standard procedure, the authorities seized all cryptocurrency and cash before taking the accused to court.
The Charges and the Sale of Bitcoin
Thirty-one year old Teresko was found guilty by the Kingston crown court on July 19, 2018 for dealing in cannabis, money laundering, and involvement in an organized crime gang. The court also ruled that the Surrey Police had a right to confiscate all bitcoin found in the raid and sell it.
The department was authorized to keep 18.8 percent of all proceeds generated from the sale to be added to the already tight budget of the Surrey Police. The total worth of all 295 bitcoins at current trading prices stands at $2.165 million. The Surrey Police has already sold the bitcoin.
Law Enforcement Aware of Illicit Crypto Use
As crypto has secured a place in modern society, associated criminal activities have gained the attention of law enforcement agencies. Those involved in the Teresko case iterated that crypto has not gone unnoticed, nor will it in the future.
Detective Inspector Rob Bryant, Head of Cyber and eForensics at the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), stated that law enforcement is aware of criminal activities being conducted via the dark web and of the use of cryptocurrencies to operate in such arenas. As such, he was pleased with the outcome of the case and the cooperation between several levels of law enforcement, stating, “This case is an excellent example of local, regional and national collaboration and the specialist technical support SEROCU can provide in these types of investigations.”
Surrey Police detective inspector for the economic crimes unit, Matthew Durkin, made several statements about bitcoin and law enforcement capabilities, mentioning that bitcoin is not as anonymous as people might like to think and that law enforcement has “the technology and the ability to conduct criminal investigations to identify and prosecute offenders.” Like Bryant, he referenced departmental awareness regarding the use of cryptocurrency for dark web transactions and emphasized that bitcoin nor other cryptocurrencies are “out of the reach of law enforcement.”
Regulators Worried about Misuse
Regulators and financial authorities across the globe have repeatedly shared concerns about bitcoin and other digital currencies being used as a preferred mode of payment. Digital currency transactions can be anonymous and may not reveal the identity of the sender and receiver, complicating matters for authorities. However, as proven in Teresko’s case, digital currency is not immune to confiscation, and law enforcement agencies are adjusting to be able to handle cases involving crypto.