Authorities' lack of cryptocurrency knowledge hands Swedish drug dealers $2.3 million crime bonus

The state needs to return 33 bitcoin to the men after the cryptocurrency appreciated in value.
The state needs to return 33 bitcoin to the men after the cryptocurrency appreciated in value. Photo credit: Getty Images

The old adage that crime doesn't pay has proven inaccurate in Sweden after a trio of drug dealers were handed a NZ$2.3 million bonus by bungling authorities.

When the three men were convicted of selling large quantities of drugs via the internet in 2019, the police seized 36 bitcoins that prosecutor Tove Kullberg claimed came from sales.

The value of the bitcoins were then converted into Swedish currency, making them worth a total of 1.3 million krona.

That meant when the men went to jail in May of that year their debt to the state was in krona and not in bitcoin. Had the enforcement officer, who is tasked with selling off the proceeds of drug deals, done so immediately there would have been no issue.

Unfortunately they took nearly two years to auction the bitcoin - during which the value of the cryptocurrency had gone up in value from 40,000 to around 500,000 krona per bitcoin.

The total debt for the three criminals could now be paid off by the proceeds of selling just three bitcoins, leaving 33 the state needs to give them back.

At current rates that will net them over NZ$2.3 million dollars, although with sentences ranging from four years to just over six years it may be a while before they can take advantage of their windfall.

Kullberg admits her lack of understanding around cryptocurrency combined with a lack of guidance from the state combined to cause this embarrassment.

"It is unfortunate that it is this way," Kullberg told Radio Sweden.

"The lesson to be learned from this is to keep the value in bitcoin. That the crime profit is 36 bitcoin, regardless of what value bitcoin has at the time."