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A recent POCA case illustrated how cryptocurrency is increasingly coming to be viewed as property by the UK courts

Author: Syedur Rahman  24 November 2021

If further confirmation was needed that that the courts are now seeing cryptocurrency as property, the case of DPP V Briedis and Reskajs provided it.

The Director of Public Prosecutions was seeking a property freezing order (PFO) under s245A of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) against two respondents. 

The PFO covered cash in various currencies, money in bank accounts, watches, a car – and various types of cryptocurrency . The hardware wallets for the cryptocurrencies had been seized during searches of the respondents’ home addresses.

The court had to consider whether the cryptocurrencies fell within the definition of “property” in section 316(4) of POCA. 

The judge, Mr Justice Fordham, said: “I am satisfied that cryptocurrency, as cryptoassets, fall within the wide definition of "property" in section 316(4)(c) ("other intangible … property"), especially when viewed in the light of the purpose of these statutory powers.’’ 

The case shows how judges are considering cryptocurrency - which is a new asset class – and  are displaying a willingness to adapt in order to deal with cryptocurrency fraud and the legal issues that arise from it.

In this case, the judge referred to the landmark cryptocurrency case of AA v Persons Unknown. That case had seen the High Court state - for the first time since the UK Jurisdiction Taskforce’s Legal Statement on Cryptoassets and Smart Contracts - that cryptocurrency could be considered property. 

As a firm, we have been involved in cases that have seen the courts clarify a number of significant issues in relation to cryptocurrency. It is likely that the courts will make further clarifications as future cases produce new issues.

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Syedur Rahman is known for his in-depth experience of serious fraud, white-collar crime and serious crime cases, as well as his expertise in worldwide asset tracing and recovery, civil recovery, cryptocurrency and high-stakes commercial disputes.

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