'Historic' auction of ill-gotten hoard of Bitcoin from Norwich computer hacker earns £240,000
PUBLISHED: 20:15 30 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:27 01 October 2019
The ill-gotten gains of a teenage computer hacker from Norwich have been sold off to the highest bidder in an "historic" auction - banking almost £250,000.
But after a "significant market dip" in the value of cryptocurrency Bitcoin in recent months, the proceeds were little over half the value seized from Elliott Gunton.
The 19-year-old had walked free from court in August despite being given 20 months immediate custody, as he had already served that time on remand.
He had admitted infiltrating the computer systems of Australian telecoms giant Telstra, allowing him to take control of an Instagram account with a following of 1.3m users.
His wealth of Bitcoin - valued at £407,359,35 at the time - was seized by police and confiscated by the court.
And last week the hoard of cryptocurrency was auctioned off - the first ever on the instruction of a police force in the UK.
The crypto assets, which include Bitcoin as well as other forms of online currency such as Ripple and Ethereum, fetched over £240,000 at Wilsons Auctions after being sold to the highest bidders on Wednesday and Thursday last week.
Detective Chief Inspector Martin Peters, from the ERSOU Cyber Crime Unit, said: "This historic auction should help us instil the public's confidence in our open, transparent system to recoup the proceeds of crime in a secure and innovative way.
"Asset recovery in a digital world has evolved, so it's really important that, working alongside commercial partners, we have a clear process for the storage and sale of cryptocurrency.
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"This goes to show there is no place to hide criminal assets - we are constantly developing our techniques and capabilities to ensure that proceeds of crime are either given back to the rightful owner or, as in this case, are reinvested in crime."
Wilsons Auctions' asset recovery director, Aidan Larkin, said they had received more than 7,500 bids with "worldwide interest", including from Brazil, Australia, Dubai, the USA and Singapore.
He said: "Despite one of the most significant market dips in recent months during the auctions, the results from these auctions indicate that we are exceeding market value by breaking the cryptocurrency down to smaller lots, we are making it more affordable for bidders, generating a better return."
The auction comes as Gunton is facing fresh charges in the United States.
Three days before his sentence at Norwich Crown Court, charges had been filed against Gunton in California relating to a hack in December 2017.
According to court documents seen by this newspaper, the allegations relate to the hack of Chicago-based cryptocurrency exchange EtherDelta in December 2017.
They claim 19-year-old Elliott Gunton - who was previously convicted of hacking TalkTalk - cloned the company's website after hacking its email server, which is based in San Francisco.
When customers logged on to the fake website he would obtain their cryptocurrency address and 'private key' - which enables withdrawal of funds, the indictment alleges.
According to the court documents, one customer lost in the region of $800,000.