Canadian Drug Dealer Forced to Forfeit $1.4 Million in Bitcoin
Matthew Phan, the Mississauga resident at the center of a drug trafficking case facilitated via bitcoin, has been ordered to forfeit 281.41 BTC by a Toronto Court, reports The Star. The ruling is reportedly the largest bitcoin forfeiture recorded by authorities in Canada. Meanwhile, Phan continues to insist that not all of the bitcoin in his possession were proceeds from his illegal drug trading activities.
Court Says Bitcoin Stash is Proceeds from Drug Deals
On April 3, 2019, Justice Jane Kelly of the Toronto Superior Court ordered the forfeiture of 281.41 BTC (about $1.4 million) found on the computer belonging to Phan. Delivering a summary judgment, Justice Kelly declared:
“There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that Mr. Phan was using the dark markets to purchase illegal items such as firearms and silencers. It is clear from the evidence found during searches, particularly of his condominium unit, that he was conducting a large sales operation of illegal narcotics.”
Despite pleading guilty in December 2018, Phan’s attorneys argued against the forfeiture at an earlier hearing in February 2019. As previously reported by BTCManager, Phan declared that a significant portion of the 288 BTC discovered by police on his laptop in 2015 came from legitimate trading activities.
However, the court stated that based on the evidence provided, it was reasonable to infer that the bulk of the bitcoin funds came from Phan’s illicit drug deals. Thus, the court chose to use its discretion in seizing 98 percent of the BTC stash.
While Justice Kelly admits suspicions that the remaining BTC also came from illegal activities, the judge remarked that there wasn’t enough evidence in that regard. Phan is yet to face sentencing on charges relating to unlawful possession of cocaine, ketamine, and PCP for the purposes of drug trafficking. Phan is also accused of trying to import a gun into the country.
The Ghost of Silk Road and AlphaBay Lingers on
Back in 2015, Canadian authorities began investigating Phan for illicit trading carried out on the dark web. Bitcoin’s association with darknet marketplaces is one that stretched back to the days of the notorious Silk Road and AlphaBay.
There is even an argument to be made that part of bitcoin’s rise to mainstream prominence began in the wake of the U.S.-led investigation into the Silk Road dark web marketplace. Phan’s alleged illicit activities reportedly took place on the Evolution and Agora platforms – both known for being hubs for illegal activities.