The self-confessed “pirate” owner of dark web site Silk Road has claimed he is a victim of theft after the US government seized his hoard of bitcoins.
Ross Ulbricht, who adopted the username “Dread pirate Roberts” on the site where people could trade drugs and guns, submitted legal files demanding the return of $30m worth of the digital currency.
Bitcoin was a popular unit of transaction on Silk Road because it is lightly regulated and hard to trace. Ulbricht was the owner of the site, which turned over more than a million dollars a month before the FBI shut it down in October.
Ulbricht was arrested on drugs, hacking and soliciting murder charges, which he denied.
The bitcoins were contained in his computers which were seized by police in the crackdown on Silk Road. Lawyers for Ulbricht said these computers contained 144,336 bitcoins worth around £18m.
The lawyers claim the bitcoin hoard should be handed back to Ulbricht because it is not covered by civil forfeiture rules.
Bitcoins have surged in value during 2013, but have also seen high levels of volatility.