A South Korean court has ruled that bitcoin has an economic value for the first time. This overturned an earlier court ruling which did not recognize the digital currency. The case involves the confiscation of 191 bitcoins.
Bitcoin’s Status Re-Examined
The Suwon District Court in South Korea has, for the first time, recognized that bitcoin has an economic value and can be confiscated, local media reported on Tuesday.
The ruling concerns the case involving Ahn who was arrested in May of last year and convicted of operating an illegal pornography site with approximately 1.2 million members. Ahn pocketed 1.9 billion won (~USD$1.78 million) in membership fees. While arresting him, the Southern Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency confiscated his 216 bitcoins from an online wallet which received some fees from the site.
In September of last year, the court did not recognize bitcoin and ruled that it could not be confiscated, as news.Bitcoin.com previously reported. An official from the court explained that they did not judge bitcoin to have any economic value because it is “in the form of electronic files without physical entities, unlike cash.”
Landmark Court Ruling on Bitcoin
Following the first ruling, the prosecutor appealed in December to the court for the ability to confiscate bitcoins. The second hearing was held recently.
In the second hearing, the court found that “The crime profit concealment law does not restrict the criminal income to the goods but the cash, the deposit, the stock, and other property with economic value,” Chosun reported and further quoted the court explaining:
Bitcoin can be changed into money through an exchange. It can be used as a means of payment through merchants, so it should be regarded as having economic value.
The court subsequently ruled that “Among the 216 bitcoins confiscated by the prosecution, Ahn’s 191 bitcoins” were traced to email addresses of the pornography site members, so they are “recognized as criminal proceeds from the operation of the site.”
Since Ahn’s arrest in April, the price of bitcoin has risen significantly. The 191 bitcoins are worth approximately 2.13 billion won (~$2 million) at the time of this writing based on bitcoin’s price on Bithumb, one of the country’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges.
Maekyung quoted a lawyer explaining:
The recognition of virtual currency as an object of forfeiture means that it will be transferred to the national treasury and used as a national budget.