Not everything sold on Silk Road was illegal. Next to the listings for cocaine and heroin, Deep Web salesmen offered art, poetry, and the occasional ebook. So when British police arrested a man who sold legal smoke paraphernalia, observers wondered if there was more to the story. Now the man, 52-year-old Peter Ward, is preparing to fight a legal battle to take back everything the police confiscated—including 100 bitcoins worth about $95,000.
Somewhere in the $164 million worth of bitcoins held by the U.S. government, there’s a chunk of the cryptocurrency that until very recently belonged to Peter Ward, a British self-described “cybertechnohippy” and dealer in drug paraphernalia like bongs, marijuana seeds, and rolling papers. Now Ward wants his bitcoins back, and he’s willing to create a thorny legal mess to get them. On Thursday, Ward began the process of retaining a lawyer to file a claim for what he says were 100 bitcoins–worth around $95,000 at current exchange rates–seized by the FBI in the takedown of the Silk Road online black market for drugs last October. Unlike most of Silk Road’s sellers, Ward says he earned his bitcoins through entirely legal means, offering the same merchandise that he advertises on the public Internet from his head shop Planet Pluto in Devon, England.