A man has been made to forfeit Bitcoin worth €52m by the High Court as part of an investigation into the sale and supply of drugs.

The cryptocurrency was discovered by the Criminal Assets Bureau as part of a garda inquiry.

It is understood that the €52m in bitcoin represents the largest single-value asset ever seized by CAB since it began operating in 1996.

In February 2017, a 4x4 driven by Clifton Collins, who has an address in Crumlin in Dublin, was stopped by gardaí in the Sally Gap area of the Wicklow Mountains.

A small amount of cannabis was seized during a search of the vehicle. 

In a follow-up search at a property in Corr na Móna in Co Galway, cannabis plants were discovered, worth around €450,000.

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Gardaí also became aware of the existence of a quantity of the cryptocurrency bitcoin, owned by the now 49-year-old, and CAB was called in.

Following an investigation in August 2017, CAB officers established that he held around 6,000 bitcoin, in which it is believed he invested at an early stage before its value increased.

In July 2019, CAB secured a temporary freezing order on the digital currency under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The matter was back before the High Court in the Criminal Courts of Justice yesterday.

Mr Justice Alex Owens ruled the bitcoin was the proceeds of crime and that it should be forfeited under the Proceeds of Crime legislation.

The judge granted a permanent freezing order on the currency, which is estimated to be worth €52m.

Collins did not contest CAB's application.

Under the legislation, the bitcoin will now be held in the control of CAB for around a seven-year period.

It will then be handed over to the Department of Finance and made available to central funds.

In the last number of years, CAB has dealt with a small amount of cases relating to cryptocurrencies.