The Swedish government has been forced to pay convicted drug dealers over SEK 13 million ($1.5 million) due to an error made during their prosecution, Swedish national broadcaster Sveriges Radio reports.
In 2019, three men were convicted of selling large quantities of drugs over the Internet, accepting payment in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Authorities seized 36 Bitcoin which they believed to be from the dealers' transactions.
Now, here's where it starts to get silly. This was one of the first times that the Swedish prosecutors had dealt with Bitcoin, and, as they now admit, they should have sought some expert advice. When the case against the trio resulted in a guilty verdict, they decided to convert the criminals' debt into Swedish Kroner. At the time, one Bitcoin was worth SEK 40,000 each, which has now climbed to SEK 500,000 per coin.
This in itself would not have been a problem, had the enforcement officer responsible for the sale of the coin sold it off immediately in order to recoup the men's debt of SEK 1,440,000. However, that task was put off until this year, with the result that the Bitcoin are now worth substantially more than the drug dealers' debt. As a result, the prosecutors were able to cover the debt owed by selling just three of the 36 Bitcoin.
They are now going to pay back the remaining 33 Bitcoin, worth around SEK 13 million, making them all millionaires while still serving their prison sentences.
"The lesson to be learned from this is to keep the value in Bitcoin," Prosecutor Tove Kullberg told Sveriges Radio. "That the crime profit is 36 bitcoin, regardless of what value Bitcoin has at the time."