A visual representation of digital cryptocurrency bitcoin.
Yu Chun Christopher Wong | S3studio | Getty Images
According to London-based blockchain analysis firm Elliptic, about $ 1 billion worth of bitcoin is running with potential links to the Silk Road online black market.
The Silk Road was closed by US federal authorities in 2013, while its creator, Ross Ulbricht, was sentenced to life in prison after two years. The site, disguised as part of the Dark Web, allowed people to sell drugs and other illegal goods.
Elliptic, a firm that monitors dirty money movements in the cryptocurrency sector, said on Wednesday that it considered transactions of funds generated from the site.
The company said that according to CoinDesk, 69,369 bitcoins – valued at about $ 950 million today – were forced out of a wallet that had the fourth-highest balance of any company globally.
It was added that an encrypted file between hackers that allegedly contained the passcode required to extract bitcoins from that wallet.
Elliptic co-founder and chief scientist Tom Robinson said in a blog post, “The movement of these bitcoins today may represent an … Albrecht or Silk Road vendor.” “Although it does not appear that Albricht will be able to conduct bitcoin transactions from prison.”
“Alternatively, the encrypted wallet file may be genuine, and the password is now cracked – allowing bitcoins to be transferred.”
Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized 174,000 bitcoins from Ulbricht, Robinson said 440,000 bitcoins were earned from the Silk Road Commission. “There has always been a suspicion that the Silk Road income may increase,” he said.
The FBI was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
Bitcoin has been on a tear in 2020, climbing 91% year-over-year, with major companies such as PayPal and Facebook showing increased interest in cryptocurrency. But it is also the target of investigations from regulators and bankers due to its use in criminal activities such as money laundering.
Elliptic and a competitor, called Chinalysis, have tried to bring some legitimacy to the cryptocurrency industry by selling analytics tools that allow virtual currency exchanges and banks to block potentially suspicious transactions.