Man who threw away hard drive with £230m of Bitcoin offers millions to find it

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An IT worker who binned a hard drive containing Bitcoin now worth £230million is offering to share his fortune to anyone who helps him find it.

Welshman James Howells is begging a council to be allowed to search a landfill site – or face losing his millions forever.

He unintentionally dumped 7,500 units of the cryptocurrency in mid-2013.

At the time, the value of the coins could be counted in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, but has since skyrocketed to more than £200m.

The 35-year-old has spent the last eight years asking Newport City Council for permission to search its landfill site for the missing
hard drive

He has made several offers to share a portion of the money, if found, with the local authority.

He now says he is prepared to part with 25 per cent of the fortune which he would like to give it to “anyone who is struggling right now”.

“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,” he 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.”

James said he began mining Bitcoin – a process of earning Bitcoin which involves completing a computational puzzle necessary to maintain
the ledger of transactions upon which the cryptocurrency is based – in
February 2009.

As one of the first Bitcoin miners, James was able to use standard home computing equipment to complete the process.

But Bitcoin is designed to increase the difficulty, or amount of computing power necessary, to make a profit from mining.

“February 2009 is when I started,” he said.

“I was mining on and off for a few weeks. Basically what I would do is I would leave the machine on overnight while I was sleeping.

“Some nights it would be four hours, or six hours, and I would estimate the total amount of time that I was mining it was less than a
week.

“It was very easy to mine coins back in those days.”

James said the value of the coins he obtained has comfortably exceeded £200m, but its value fluctuates frequently.

“It was worth £210m yesterday and £230m today,” he said.

“Bitcoin’s value went up by four grand – what can I say?

“But that’s not say it couldn’t jump down by the same amount in the same time period. It goes up and down.

“Guys who are into the crypto world are used to it.”

James said he has gained the support of a hedge fund which would finance his plan to excavate the landfill site near Docks Way, in
Newport.

But he said he has been unable to obtain permission to execute his plan.

“I have got an international hedge fund who are willing to put up anywhere between £2.5m to £3.5m to do a professional search operation
of the landfill,” he said.

“Basically, to do the job properly to all environmental standards because at the end of the day even though that is a lot of money it’s
still worth it.

“I have got to give up a large percentage to the investors which I accept – the risk to reward ratio.

“But I accept that because all the risk is on them if anything, there’s hardly any risk with Newport City Council.

“As part of the project plan, we plan to put a large sum of money into an escrow which the local council will be able to access if we were to
mess up.

“That would all be written into contract so it covers the local authority, so they are not out of pocket in any way.

“If you look at their response they haven’t taken this into consideration at all.

“It just seems like a continuation of excuses not to engage with me, wishing it would just go away. But it’s not going to go away because
the valuation of Bitcoin is only going to go one way over time.

“In five to ten years time the drive is going to be worth a billion pounds.”

A spokesperson for Newport City 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 first time was several months after Mr Howells first realised the hardware was missing.

“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 licencing permit and excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area.

“Even if we were able to agree to his request, there is the question of who would meet the cost if the hard drive was not found or was
damaged to such an extent that the data could not be recovered.

“We have, therefore, been clear that we cannot assist him in this matter.”