Bitcoin, an anonymous and unregulated digital currency, has become the poster child for the libertarian ideals of eliminating the Federal Reserve, avoiding inflation and keeping currency separated from governments. As it turns out, however, the world's largest bitcoin holder is the U.S. government.
The largest bitcoin wallet in the world, according to BitcoinRichList, which ranks the top 100 richest bitcoin addresses, contains more than 144,341 bitcoins, which is equivalent to roughly $86 million. While the owners of bitcoin accounts are anonymous, the transactions are all public, and the descriptions of this account’s transactions are all described as “DPR Seized Coins.”
In October, the FBI shut down Silk Road, an infamous Internet-only black market, and it arrested Ross William Ulbricht, who the FBI said was the owner of Silk Road, named Dread Pirate Roberts, or DPR. Later that month, New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced that the government had seized 144,336 bitcoins from Ulbricht.
Not only do the amount of bitcoins and the transaction descriptions match, but the first occurrence of a “DPR Seized Coins” transaction took place on Oct. 25, the same day Bharara announced the seizure. It seems safe to conclude that the Blockchain wallet is owned by the FBI.
It seems this is just one of the government’s bitcoin wallets. Another account contains 30,000 bitcoins ($18.7 million) from transactions that began earlier in October described as “Silkroad Seized Coins.”
That puts the U.S. government well ahead of the Winklevoss twins, who claimed that they purchased about 1 percent of all the bitcoins in the world when they made a major investment in the digital currency back in July.
The world's largest bitcoin holder remains the mysterious person or team that invented bitcoin, known by the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto.” That person or team is believed to have created the first 1 million bitcoins and the spread them across many wallets.
A recent paper from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel actually studied the bitcoins that the FBI seized from Ulbricht, and it concluded that the FBI had only seized about 22 percent of Ulbricht’s entire bitcoin fortune. The team also found a link between Ulbricht and Satoshi Nakamoto.
The majority of the richest bitcoin wallets remain anonymous, but it’s clear that despite the libertarian ideals of many bitcoin supporters, the U.S. government has become a major player in the digital economy.