Syedur Rahman outlines the events involved in a legal first for confiscation.

A judge ordered the confiscation of bitcoin worth more than £900,000 from a jailed hacker in what was the first case of its kind for London’s Metropolitan Police Service.

Grant West, 27, had about £1M-worth of the cryptocurrency seized from a number of accounts after his arrest in September 2017. But as the value of bitcoin fluctuated greatly after his arrest attempts to compensate victims proved complicated.

Proceedings in Southwark Crown Court were temporarily stalled as the order signed by West agreeing to the confiscation of the cryptocurrency related to a higher amount than that which was confiscated. Eventually announcing the order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, Joanna Korner QC said that West was to pay £915,305.77 in compensation – and would spend additional years in jail if he refused. He agreed to comply with the order. 

Unlike fiat currencies - government-issued currencies not backed by a physical commodity with intrinsic value, such as gold or silver - there is no centralised exchange rate for bitcoin, which rose in value to almost £18,000 a bitcoin in December 2017 before falling below £7,000 in May 2018. The value of West’s seized assets was calculated by authorities at a rate of about £8,500 per bitcoin.

In May 2018, West, of Sheerness, Kent, was jailed for 10 years and eight months for a number of offences including unauthorised modification of computer material, conspiracy to defraud and possession of criminal property. Using the online identity “Courvoisier”, he carried out cyberattacks over two and a half years on more than 100 companies and organisations worldwide, sold the information on the dark web and collected his profits online. 

Given that the financial amount in the case exceeded £250k but was less than £1M, pursuant to the powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 sec.139 (4), the judge was entitled to impose a custodial sentence of up to five years for non-payment of the order. 

Cybercrime is an increasing problem that takes many forms, we recommend reading our guide - Cybercrime - Reducing The Risks.