Nearly £1m in Bitcoin taken from imprisoned hacker Grant West is to be sold to compensate victims, in a first-of-its-kind case for the Met
A judge has given the go-ahead for Bitcoin worth some £900,000 to be confiscated from hacker Grant West, in a case that is the first of its kind for the Metropolitan Police.
The assets were seized after West, 27, was arrested on a train from Rhyl to London in September 2017, following two and a half years of criminal activities including stealing data from more than 100 organisations worldwide and selling marijuana and how-to hacking manuals.
It is the first time the Metropolitan Police have seized Bitcoin as part of an investigation.
Under the pseudonym “Courvoisier”, West attacked targets included Sainsbury’s, Asda, Uber, the British Cardiovascular Society and the bookmakers Ladbrokes and Coral, carrying out brute-force attacks with a tool called Sentry MBR.
West carried out his crimes using his girlfriend’s laptop while living in a caravan park on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.
In May of last year he was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison for his offences.
While police were already in control of the Bitcoin funds, it was only on Friday morning that Southwark crown court announced the official order for the assets to be confiscated and sold on the open market, with the proceeds used to compensate those West targeted.
The procedure was temporarily delayed by the fact that the order signed by West agreeing to the confiscation related to a higher sum than that which was actually seized, due to broad fluctuations in the value of Bitcoin over the past two years.
The judge, Joanna Korner QC, eventually said: “I therefore order a confiscation of that amount, £915,305.77, to be paid as a way of compensation to the losers”, according to The Guardian.
West had been told that if he refused to allow the seizure he would spend an additional four years in prison.
Prosecuting counsel Kevin Barry told the court a further hearing would be necessary to amend the order upwards or downwards due to continued volatility in Bitcoin’s value.
At the time of West’s arrest in 2017, Bitcoin was in the midst of a dramatic increase in value that saw it hit nearly £18,000 per coin in December, before falling below £7,000 in May 2018. At present a rebound has taken the asset over £8,100.
The FBI is holding another £200,000 of Bitcoin from its own investigation of West and has frozen it at the request of the Crown Prosecution Service.
“The MPS is committed to ensuring that individuals who are committing criminality on the dark web are identified, prosecuted and their criminal assets are seized,” said DCI Kirsty Goldsmith, head of the Met’s cybercrime unit. “I am very proud of my team for bringing this offender to justice and ensuring we have secured this order.”
Last week Elliot Gunton, 19, of Old Catton, near Norwich, was sentenced to 20 months in prison and told to pay back more than £400,000 after hacking the personal data of TalkTalk customers and reselling it.