For the first time in history, the bitcoin reserves of a nation-state have exceeded their gold reserves. The country that holds this particular record is Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is estimated to hold over 200,000 bitcoins, with a present value of about $2 billion. The country’s gold reserves, on the other hand, are estimated at 40 tonnes, equivalent to about 1.8 billion dollars.
The seized bitcoins
In May 2017, a press release from the Southeast European Law Enforcement Centre (SELEC) announced that more than 200,000 bitcoins, worth $500 million, were seized by the Bulgarian authorities.
The loot seized came from an organised criminal gang consisting mainly of Bulgarian citizens.
The members of this criminal group would have invested most of the money obtained from illegal activities in bitcoin. For the purpose of hiding their own tracks.
The loot of the criminal organisation was about half a billion dollars and, at the time a bitcoin was worth about 2350 USD, so there was talk of more than 200,000 BTC held by the gang.
The authorities have not provided details on how these bitcoins were discovered exactly. They have only shown images of the seized money showing equipment, communication devices, computers and tablets.
At the current price, these bitcoins are worth over $2 billion. The number is even more impressive when you consider that Bulgaria currently holds in the state coffers about 40400 kilos of gold, for a countervalue of 1.8 billion dollars.
In its refusal to provide public information, the Ministry of the Interior justified itself by saying that the data requested were specific information for a criminal investigation.
According to some bizarre local stories the bitcoins were subsequently sold in secret to pay for new aviation squadrons and the remainder used as a personal prize of the president and other officials.
What really happened in Bulgaria?
In reality, what exactly happened is not very clear.
The press release is still valid and there has been no correction or clarification for many years now despite the attention of the local and international media.
All this means that, until proven otherwise, Bulgaria still holds these bitcoins.
For small quantities, bitcoin is very secure and private because small trips are hidden in the daily traffic of transactions. On the contrary, when huge quantities of bitcoins are moved, services such as WhaleAlert immediately notify the occurrence and at that point it is quite easy to follow the tracks.
The latter is presumably the reason why the authorities do not want to disclose the actual addresses in which these bitcoins are held.
As reported by the Ministry of the Interior, there are legal cases, criminal proceedings and investigations and therefore it was decided not to release too much information about the incident.