Welsh man seeks help to find £200m Bitcoin fortune in landfill site

James Howells offers local council £50m to help find his computer hard drive

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James Howells at the Newport Amenity Centre and landfill site
Man throws away computer hard drive with £4m worth of bitcoins stored on it, Wales, Britain - 28 Nov 2013
A computer expert threw away an old hard drive containing 7,500 bitcoins worth an estimated £4m. James Howells obtained the bitcoins, which are a virtual form of currency, for almost nothing in 2009. A few years ago the IT worker removed his computer's hard drive after spilling a drink on it. The part then sat in a drawer of his house for years and he forgot that he had the bitcoins on it. So during a recent clearout of his old IT equipment he thought nothing about throwing the drive out. It was only later that he realised what had been left on there. He checked all of his back up files but could not locate the coins so went to his local landfill site. However, one glance at the size of the site and he knew it would be fruitless to search for the drive. Bitcoins have soared in value recently and a single one is now worth around $1,000 (£613).
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An IT worker in Wales offered his local council £50 million ($68.2m) to help dig up a landfill site where he says he accidently threw away a hard drive containing a £200m Bitcoin fortune.

James Howells, 35, has been trying to find the hard drive since the summer of 2013 when he disposed of a digital wallet containing 7,500 Bitcoins. He acquired them in 2009 when the cryptocurrency was barely known, but it has since soared in value. One Bitcoin is currently worth about £27,767.

He has offered Newport Council 25 per cent of the fortune if they can help him find it. But the council turned down the request because of the potential cost involved, licensing laws and the environmental impact.

"Basically what I'm saying to Newport council is if you allow me to search in a specific area, and I find it, I'm happy to give the people of Newport 25 per cent," Mr Howells said.

"I want to give it to people. Basically, anyone who is struggling right now they could make an application to a relief fund and get money sent to them straight away.

"Would that not be a good thing for the people of Newport? I think so. It would be a very good use of that money,” he said.

Mr Howells said a hedge fund offered to fund the excavation, but the council refused to allow it.

“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 buried. It was also given a grid reference number,” Mr Howell said.

“So 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 believes the digital wallet could be worth as much as £1 billion in 10 years’ time.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “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.

“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 licensing permit and excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area. We have, therefore, been clear that we cannot assist him in this matter.”

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