BBC News reports that the UK’s tax department, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, (HMRC) claims it is the first authority to seize an NFT. Three people were arrested in connection with a PS1.4million (roughly $1.9 Million) fraud case. The authorities seized PS5 ,000 of crypto assets, approximately $6 ,762) and three NFT artworks that are still to be valued.
High-profile seizures by authorities are becoming more common as cryptocurrencies continue to rise in value. The US Department of Justice recently seized $3.6 billion worth of cryptocurrency in connection to the 2016 Bitfinex hack. This is the first major seizure of NFTs, digital assets used to prove ownership of media such as images and songs.
Nick Sharp, HMRC’s deputy chief of economic crime, stated that the authority “constantly adaptto new technology) to ensure we keep up with how criminals, evaders, and others look to hide their assets.”
It is believed that the fraud involved 250 fraudulent companies. The suspects used fake addresses, prepaid phones, VPNs and stolen identities to conceal their activities from HMRC. Sky News reports HMRC has not taken over the NFTs but is using a court order in order to stop them being sold.
It is unlikely that this will be the last time authorities seize NFTs. Bloomberg Quint reported that an IRS special agent recently stated that the agency is focusing more on crypto-assets due to the “mountains” of fraud it sees in the region. Individual NFTs are being sold for millions in an industry worth around $16 trillion, so it is only natural that authorities will become more involved.