The U.S. Justice Department announced on Thursday it has seized nearly 70,000 Bitcoins from a person the agency would only describe as “Individual X.”
The news is remarkable because of the value of Bitcoin seized—the haul is worth around $1.05 billion based on today’s Bitcoin price of $15,000—but also because of the timing and the mysterious nature of the seizure.
According to a Justice Department complaint, the digital wallet holding the Bitcoins belonged to a hacker who stole them from the operator of the Silk Road, a notorious black market website that acted as a giant online bazaar for drugs and other criminal activity. The federal government took down the Silk Road and arrested its owner—who is now serving life in prison—in 2013.
The Justice Department complaint says IRS agents reviewed the hacker’s activities earlier this year with the help of a cryptocurrency forensics firm. That firm, Chainalysis, published a blog post detailing how it analyzed the Bitcoin blockchain—a tamper-proof public ledger of…