Business

Ed Drake

Drug dealer in Canada ordered to forfeit $1.4M in crypto

They say crime doesn’t pay, but not in the case of Canadian crypto criminal Matthew Phan.

After Phan was found dealing narcotics online, law enforcement uncovered a large stash of Bitcoin Core (BTC) in a device in his home. Now, according to reports emerging this week, a judge in Canada has ruled Phan must forfeit as much as CAD1.9 million (around $1.4 million) in ill-gotten gains, currently stored in the cryptocurrency.

His case is the latest example of criminals relying on BTC and other cryptocurrencies to attempt to evade detection. Particularly in cases of drugs trading and money laundering, BTC has been the cryptocurrency of choice for those acting in breach of the law.

The ruling, the largest ever crypto forfeiture in Canada to date, was passed by Superior Court Justice Jane Kelly at a court in Toronto, The Star reported.

The court ordered that some 281.41 BTC be handed over to the Ministry of the Attorney General, after evidence was led suggesting Phan had used cryptocurrency to buy a gun, as well as to engage in the drugs trade.

Phan pleaded guilty to the charges back in December, including buying a gun and possession of ketamine, PCP and cocaine for the purposes of trafficking.

In his defense, Phan said that not all of his BTC had been used in illegal activities, claiming he had also been engaged in trading gold, as well as speculating on cryptocurrencies directly.

While the judge was clear there may be some truth in Phan’s suggestion that the crypto was also used for other things, she confirmed there was “overwhelming evidence” of criminality to justify the seizure of his holdings.

Kelly noted, “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.”

“It is a reasonable inference to draw that payment for such illegal narcotics sales was made using [BTC] that was found in the digital wallet on Mr. Phan’s computer,” the judge ruled.

While Phan is still awaiting sentence, the expectation is that he will now receive a substantial custodial term.

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