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Korea’s Supreme Court Orders Seizure of $1.4 Million in Bitcoin in Criminal Case

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:08 PM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:08 PM

South Korean authorities are cleared to confiscate 191 bitcoins, about $1.43 million, from the operator of a child pornography website in addition to a prison sentence and a penalty.

In a ruling on Wednesday, South Korea’s Supreme Court said that cryptocurrency can be deemed a forfeitable asset in a criminal prosecution, Yonhap News  reports.

In doing so, the Supreme Court upheld an appellate court’s conviction and overturned a lower court’s ruling to reject a prosecutor’s request for the forfeiture of the 33-year-old accused’s bitcoin holdings after he was first charged in May 2014.

A lower court had previously ruled that the accused’s cyber assets cannot be seized since they have no physical form and only exist electronically. Today’s Supreme Court order has overruled that decision, ruling that cryptocurrency can figure as “profit earned from trade in goods.” Still, it remains to be seen how authorities move to seize the operator’s cryptocurrency and administer it subsequently.

The operator of the website has also been handed a sentence of 18 months in prison and a penalty of 696 million won ($644,000) in addition to having his bitcoins seized.

Today’s ruling could have wider ramifications for a number of other criminal cases involving cryptocurrencies. A series of raids into cryptocurrency exchanges over embezzlement of users’ crypto funds have seen executives detained and computer hardware seized.

An ongoing criminal case into a major $250 million ethereum mining scam has seen Korean prosecutors file charges against several individuals associated with a US-based cryptocurrency mining firm, accusing it of fraudulently soliciting money from Korean nationals and investors around the world.

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