In October 2013, the FBI arrested Ross William Ulbricht, the owner of Silk Road. Silk Road is an internet-only black market. In addition to arresting him, the government seized his assets, which included a digital wallet with 144,336 bitcoins. This is worth approximately $86 million in US currency.
The government also has possession of another digital bitcoin wallet containing 30,000 bitcoins, which was believed to be connected to the Silk Road operation. This wallet is worth approximately $18.7 million.
Bitcoin owners are anonymous; however, transactions are public record. This means that figuring out who ends the accounts can be tricky, but following the trail of buying and spending is not. The team of people who created bitcoins are also anonymous. However, the creators are believed to be the holders of the largest known bitcoin wallet. They are known only as “Satoshi Nakamoto.”
Based on research done at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, it is believed that the government only has possession of 22% of Ulbricht’s total bitcoins. Additionally, they believe there is a link between Ulbricht and Satoshi Nakamoto.
It is believed that Satoshi Nakamoto owns bitcoins under multiple accounts; all of which are anonymous. The elusive nature of bitcoins and their account holders is part of what has shed a negative light over the whole opportunity.
While there is clearly a desire for online currency, the lack of regulations creates the potential for ethical and legal issues. As the case of the Silk Road highlights, this unregulated currency can easily be used for illegal activity. Despite these drawbacks, many libertarians believe bitcoins are or should be the future of currency. They lack faith in the Federal Reserve and believe the government should not be able to regulate currency.
Despite its status as a deregulated currency, the US government is now one of the richest members of the bitcoin community.