Man offers local government $71 million to help him find drive containing 7,500 Bitcoin

midian182

Posts: 6,903   +62
Staff member
Facepalm: One of the problems with virtual currencies is the potential for them to be lost or become inaccessible. A famous case is that of UK computer engineer James Howells, who accidentally threw away a hard drive with around $285 million of Bitcoin on it in 2013. Now, he's offering his local government a quarter of the crypto to help him find the device—but it isn't interested in the deal.

Howells, 35, mined 7,500 Bitcoin back in 2009 when they were worth almost nothing. He gave up his mining endeavours after his girlfriend became sick of the noise, selling his equipment but holding on to the hard drive containing his private keys.

When clearing out his desk in 2013, Howell accidentally threw the drive away. "I had two identical hard drives, and I threw out the wrong one. I know I'm not the only person who has ever thrown out the wrong thing, but it usually doesn't cost people over £200million." he said. "I have to laugh about it now."

The drive ended up in a general waste bin at his local landfill site in Newport, South Wales, where it was buried.

Howells has repeatedly asked Newport city council to aid him in retrieving the Bitcoin, offering a 25 percent cut—around $71 million—if it helps him recover the drive.

There's the question of whether a hard drive from 2009 that's been buried in a landfill for eight years will still work. Howell's optimistic: "There is no guarantee of that because of the environment it's been in, but there are things that give me confidence. The outside case might be rusted. But the inside disk, where the data is stored, there should be a good chance that it still works," he said. "But the longer this drags on, though, it's less likely to be a possibility."

Howells says a hedge fund has agreed to back the project so the council won't be out of pocket, and he believes there's a way to narrow down the search.

"The way the landfill operated in 2013 was when a general waste bin was full, it was given a serial number, it was dragged off to the open pit and it was buried. It was also given a grid reference number. So what that means is, if I could access the landfill records, I could identify the week that I threw the hard drive away; I could identify the serial number of the bin that it was in; and then I could identify where the grid reference is located," he explained.

"I'd like the opportunity to sit down with the decision makers and present to them an action plan for what we want to do. I hope we can get that […] We want to employ an inflatable structure to create an air-tight seal around that area to stop landfill gases escaping."

For Newport council, it seems the risks outweigh any potential benefits.

"Newport City Council has been contacted a number of times since 2014 about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain Bitcoins," said a spokesperson. "The cost of digging up the landfill, storing and treating the waste could run into millions of pounds - without any guarantee of either finding it or it still being in working order."

"The council has also told Mr Howells on a number of occasions that excavation is not possible under our licencing permit and excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area."

"Even if we were able to agree to his request, there is the question of who would meet the cost if the hard drive was not found or was damaged to such an extent that the data could not be recovered. We have, therefore, been clear that we cannot assist him in this matter."

This week brought news of Stefan Thomas, a programmer who has lost the password to a hard drive containing 7,002 Bitcoin in a digital wallet. He has two guesses left before the $240 million worth of crypto becomes permanently inaccessible.

Cryptocurrency data firm Chainalysis estimates that around 20 percent of the existing 18.5 million Bitcoin, worth around $140 billion, is lost or stuck in inaccessible wallets.

Permalink to story.

 

VitalyT

Posts: 5,688   +5,533
Now, he's offering his local government a quarter of the crypto to help him find the device—but it isn't interested in the deal.
It was going to fail by definition. Governments are there to collect money, not to do anything for it.

They will take all the money you offer them. But if it involves them moving a finger, that's a deal breaker.
 

Lounds

Posts: 857   +755
Find it and I'll pay you.

On what planet does this deal make sense?
The local authority runs the waste and recycling centres, so it's their land so to speak, so if they help him find his property then I think 25% cut is fair deal for them and for him. He's been searching for it for 7 years lol.
 

Ean Mogg

Posts: 168   +79
I used to live in Newport when he originally lost it, but there was two stories going around at the time, one was he changed his hard drive for a new one and his mother threw it out, and the other was he threw it out when bitcoin was worth a few pounds so not worrying about it, then a few months later if not years bitcoin hit the roof making him rich, if only he didn't throw out that Hard Drive. And this has been going on for 10 years at least since that was the last time I lived in Newport and he was looking two or three years before that, so it must be deep down there lol
 

QuantumPhysics

Posts: 5,009   +5,618
I used to live in Newport when he originally lost it, but there was two stories going around at the time, one was he changed his hard drive for a new one and his mother threw it out, and the other was he threw it out when bitcoin was worth a few pounds so not worrying about it, then a few months later if not years bitcoin hit the roof making him rich, if only he didn't throw out that Hard Drive. And this has been going on for 10 years at least since that was the last time I lived in Newport and he was looking two or three years before that, so it must be deep down there lol


That's ultimately the shame about Bitcoin. In the beginning, no one realized the value it would hold today. Some people spent their Bitcoin on food, music albums, toys, etc.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 16,960   +5,728
Some people will do anything for a piece of tail. :rolleyes:

What I don't get, (and anyone can help me out with this), is why the drive was never copied, and/or put in a safe deposit box.

The fact that I don't know what's still on any given drive, only makes me want to keep it more. (Of course I'm lazy and disorganized enough to possibly never get around to checking).
 

Dimitrios

Posts: 826   +631
I bet he was afraid of being audited and made this lie so that he's "in the safe." Something about his story is just sketchy.
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 3,426   +1,570
You obviously don't know what you are talking about. This is standard No cure no pay clause.
Besides how else could one come up with a 70 million pounds?
It's closer to a long shot, with only Howell as the one with nothing to lose, except $70M IF they find it.

"... offering a 25 percent cut ..."
 
Backups dude...
And then, backups for your backups.


As for the programmer on his last 2 passwords, could he pay to have it hacked in a way that wouldn't cause it to corrupt the data by triggering some sort of security feature? Just curious.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 960   +1,399
It was going to fail by definition. Governments are there to collect money, not to do anything for it.

They will take all the money you offer them. But if it involves them moving a finger, that's a deal breaker.
That's exactly what it is - the 71 mil is just to bribe them to let him search a landfill, because as a rule, the government is full of obdurate mossbacks. He'll be on the hook for even more to execute a search.

It's maddening because I'm the opposite, I never throw out a hard drive and I have data continuity for my files going back to the early 90s. If I had mined a fraction of a BTC or grabbed some from a faucet back then...
 

terzaerian

Posts: 960   +1,399
I bet he was afraid of being audited and made this lie so that he's "in the safe." Something about his story is just sketchy.
Nah, this guy's story is a saga as old and wellworn in Bitcoin circles as the tale of the Bitcoin Pizza Guy.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 960   +1,399
What kills me is throwing away a HDD.

I still have my first HDD from 1998 - a 20GB WD model in my Pavilion 8570c.

I transfer files from old HDD to new SSD but I never throw anything away unless it's completely destroyed.
NOW pigs are flying - I'm agreeing with QuantumPhysics in a story about Bitcoin.