The US authorities have been able to unearth a huge stash of nearly £3 billion in bitcoin stolen almost a decade ago.

The bitcoins were stolen by 32-year-old James Zhong from the dark web. The police found the stash hidden in a popcorn tin at his house in Gainesville, Georgia. Zhong had successfully managed to steal more than 50,000 bitcoins, worth £2.9 billion, from the dark web marketplace Silk Road.

Silk Road was a dark web forum which was being used to sell and purchase drugs and other illicit products with cryptocurrency.

The police raided his house following an investigation in 2021. The man had stored cryptocurrency on computer devices, and investigators found these devices locked away in an underground floor safe that was hidden under blankets in a popcorn tin stored in the bathroom.

Zhong pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and now faces up to 20 years in prison for the theft, per a report in The Mirror.

"Mr. Zhong is extremely remorseful for his conduct that occurred over 10 years ago when he was just 22," his lawyer Michael Bachner said in a statement, adding that he has returned "virtually" all of the bitcoin.

"For almost ten years, the whereabouts of this massive chunk of missing Bitcoin had ballooned into an over $3.3 billion mystery," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. It was the second-largest seizure in the history of the US Department of Justice.

The US government shut down Silk Road in 2013, describing it as a massive money-laundering marketplace. Its creator, Ross Ulbricht, was convicted in 2015 for enabling illegal drug sales via bitcoin. He was sentenced to life in prison and lost an appeal in 2017.

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