According to research by The Block Crypto, 453,000 Bitcoins have been seized by various governments at some point in the past. This is 2.6% of the 17.366 million Bitcoins in circulation, approximately 1 out of 40.

Some 85.6% of these seized coins came from the Silk Road shutdown and a crackdown on a crime group in Bulgaria. It is important to note that the amount of seized Bitcoins at any given time is much less than the total, as since governments usually auction off the seized funds for cash.

Theoretically, Bitcoin cannot be seized if used properly, since Bitcoins are cryptographically secured with a private key. However, if not stored properly or if forceful persuasion tactics are used, private keys can end up being revealed.

The Silk Road is probably the most well-documented seizure. A total of 174,000 Bitcoins were seized from the Silk Road when Ross Ulbricht was arrested in October 2013, worth nearly USD 54 million at the time. All of these have been auctioned off.

In May 2017, the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELEC) announced that it had seized 213,519 Bitcoins worth USD 500 million, and these are believed to be in the coffers of the Bulgarian state. There is some controversy over whether this happened, due to conflicting official statements released by the Bulgarian government.

Other seizures include 24,518 Bitcoins by Australia in May 2016 from a Silk Road merchant, 11,000 Bitcoins by Europol in July 2015, 6,060 Bitcoins by the United States in April 2014, 4,000 Bitcoins by the United States in June 2018, another 3,813 Bitcoins by the United States in January 2018, with many smaller ones.

The United States and Europe are responsible for practically all of the seized Bitcoins in the world, besides the one incident in Australia. Bulgaria officially claims to not have the stash of 200,000 seized Bitcoins and the United States in one estimate has no more than 10,000 seized Bitcoins after auctions.

 

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