The US government Thursday launched its third auction of digital currency seized when US authorities shut down a drug-dealing website in 2013.
The US Marshals Service was offering 50,000 bitcoins from the accounts of the convicted founder of the Silk Road website Ross Ulbricht.
Each bitcoin was valued at 270 dollars by BlockChain, giving them a total value of about 13.5 million dollars
Sealed bids have been submitted and results are to be announced on Friday.
US agents seized a total of 144,000 bitcoins when they closed down Silk Road in 2013. Ulbricht, 30, was charged with masterminding the sale of 1.2 billion dollars worth of heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and other illegal drugs through the website.
Ulbricht faces life in prison at his sentencing May 15. He was convicted in New York court in February on seven counts of drug trafficking, criminal enterprise and conspiracy to hack computers and launder money.
Just a month after Ulbricht’s arrest, a new internet drugs portal, Silk Road 2.0, appeared online. The FBI shut it down in November and arrested Ulbricht’s alleged successor, programmer Blake Benthall.
The bitcoin currency first appeared in 2009 and operates independently of governments and banks. Bitcoins can be purchased on the internet with established currencies such as the dollar or euro or obtained by solving complex mathematical equations on a user’s computer.
In January, the first US bitcoin exchange was launched by the California-based company Coinbase after being licensed to operate in about half of the 50 US states. But there is no official national oversight of the exchange.
Bitcoin’s volatility has ranged from a record high of 1,150 dollars in late 2013 to a recent low in January of 177 dollars.