Prosecutors in Norway demand online drug dealers pay penalty in bitcoin

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Prosecutors in Norway have demanded that a number of criminals charged with selling drugs pay part of their penalty in bitcoin, the first time that a country in Scandinavia and possibly all of Europe has demanded compensation using the cryptocurrency.

The case involved three men arrested in June 2015 who were alleged to have been selling drugs on dark web sites including the now-defunct Silk Road marketplace. Evidence included a large amount of narcotics and several computers, along with proof that the trio were using bitcoin to facilitate their illicit trades.

According to reports, the men were formally charged with selling drugs last Friday, with the prosecutor demanding that the trio should repay their profits in 120 bitcoin and 3.1 million Norwegian Kroner, worth $149,000 and $366,000, respectively, at current exchange rates.

The decision to ask for bitcoin as a payment for a crime would suggest a tacit recognition by the Norwegian Government of bitcoin as a legal form of payment. But prosecutors insisted that was not the case. One of the prosecutors stated that “this is in no way an official Norwegian recognition of the digital currency.”

Still, that begs the question: Why would the Norwegian Government demand payment in bitcoin if it doesn’t recognize its value as a digital currency?

Although this is one of the first times bitcoin has been demanded in a criminal case, as Coin Telegraph points out it raises other concerns, in particular the fact that the price of bitcoin has increased substantially from the time the crimes were committed. That means that “by demanding that the drug dealers repay their bitcoin profits, which were earned in 2013 to 2014, the value of the fine imposed is actually much higher.”

The trial of the three accused is expected to take place later this year.

Photo: conner395/Flickr