Bitcoins Under the Hammer in France

The Bitcoin logo appears on the display screen of a crypto currency ATM at the Smoker’s Choice store in Salem, N.H., last month. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

PARIS (AFP) — Governments might look askance at bitcoin but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to cash in its soaring value — France is auctioning off the cryptocurrency for the first time.

More than 600 coins seized as part of an investigation could fetch more than $30 million if bidding reaches the current market prices.

The sale, being held online by the Kapandji Morhange auction house, attracted more than 1,600 participants.

“We did well to take our time” in preparing for the auction, said auctioneer Ghislaine Kapandji.

When preparations got underway in September, bitcoin was trading around $10,000, far from the $60,000 it struck over the weekend, putting the sale of 611 coins in an altogether different league.

Bidding for some lots began in the morning, and most that had been completed by midday had sold for around 40,000 euros per bitcoin, which was close to the global market price of $55,000 per coin given exchange rates and commissions.

Although bitcoin has often been accused of being a speculative asset and a means for criminals to move and launder money, the cryptocurrency has seen its value soar in recent months as more mainstream companies like Tesla and hedge fund BlackRock get behind it.

No information has been disclosed about the provenance of the bitcoins as the legal process is underway.

If the defendant wins, they’ll receive the funds from the auction minus commissions paid to the auction house.

Otherwise the French state will pocket any money not awarded by the court to victims or charity. 

France is far from the first to auction cryptocurrencies, with the U.S. doing so in 2014, followed by Canada, Australia, Belgium and Britain, according to auctioneer Kapandji Morhange.

© Agence France-Presse

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