According to a report released by the Wall Street Journal, the FBI has begun investigations into several Bitcoin exchanges, including the notorious Mt. Gox, as the Silk Road saga continues in court.
The FBI is looking to build a solid case against the founder, and owner, of the Silk Road dark net website. The Silk Road served as a platform for transactions in narcotics; precursor chemicals; and drug paraphernalia, as well as other items such as counterfeit documents and hacker codes. The site’s owner, Ross Ulbricht, also known online as “Dread Pirate Roberts,” is charged with conspiracy to traffic narcotics, conspiracy to commit computer hacking, money laundering and conspiracy of running an ongoing criminal empire.
The investigation by the FBI seems to be targeted at potential exchanges that may be suspected to have processed transactions from the Silk Road enterprise. While no names have been mentioned specifically at this point, the FBI has issued subpoenas to multiple exchanges—including Mt. Gox—to assess whether or not they have processed transactions connected to Silk Road. Subpoenas were issued to Mt. Gox demanding access to their customer-transaction logs, as well as any materials related to solicitation of investors.
While this investigation is still in it’s early stages, with no definitive parties other than Mt. Gox being named, this is a matter that once again drags crypto currency through the mud. The Ross Ulbricht trial is definitely worth keeping an eye on, as the verdicts may reveal how the government will tread upon the heavily debated issue of Bitcoin and other cryptos.
While Ross Ulbricht’s attorney may have caught a break with the money laundering charges levied at Ulbricht, as the federal government has declared that Bitcoins are property, rather than currency, and must be taxed as such. Ulbricht’s attorney has filed a petition to the court to have the money laundering charges against his client dropped, citing the IRS definition of Bitcoin. The fact remains that the government is very concerned with how Bitcoin or other crypto currency can be utilized as a tool to assist in money laundering efforts.
Many experts have stated that the block chain is very transparent when compared to the systems used by financial institutions and banks, making it unsuitable for such nefarious activities. But the House of Appropriations and the Department of Justice remain yet unconvinced. The SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) has also recently released an advisory pertaining to investments in crypto currency.
Bitcoin will have many more hurdles to clear before it can achieve it’s goal of legitimacy and acceptance by society at large. Perhaps with the recent positive press for Bitcoin, which includes eBay’s CEO announcing that they are considering adding Bitcoin as a payment method, the finish line may be much closer than we think.