In brief

  • The DOJ has seized over $1 billion in crypto that blockchain investigation firms think is linked to the Silk Road.
  • The funds moved this week.
  • It's unclear who owns them.

The US Department of Justice today announced that it has seized $1 billion worth of Bitcoin from the defunct Silk Road dark web market and that it is suing for the forfeiture of the money, reported Bloomberg.

Funds moved Tuesday from the cryptocurrency wallet that was holding the 69,370 Bitcoin. This is the first time these funds had moved since 2015.

Blockchain investigation firms linked the coins to the Silk Road, a huge dark web marketplace shut down by the FBI in 2013. The Feds apparently then seized the funds from an anonymous hacker. Researchers believe this wallet contained the fourth-largest Bitcoin balance of any address.

Hackers had been trying to access the funds in the wallet for years, using a file that supposedly held its private keys that started circulating online about a year ago. It could be the case that someone managed to hack the funds or the original owner of the wallet—whom some speculate is Ross Ulbricht, the creator of Silk Road who's currently serving a life sentence—moved the funds.

"The movement of these bitcoins today, now worth around $955 million, may represent Ulbricht or a Silk Road vendor moving their funds. However it seems unlikely that Ulbricht would be able to conduct a bitcoin transaction from prison. Alternatively, the encrypted wallet file may have been real, and the password has now been cracked - allowing the bitcoins to be moved," said co-founder of blockchain firm Elliptic in a blog post yesterday.

A report by CBS San Francisco said that the funds had been "hacked from Silk Road." It's unclear, however, by whom or in what capacity.