City court orders gang to return Bitcoins to American man

Ke Jiayun
A gang who had been sentenced to prison for locking up a couple and forcing them to transfer virtual currency to their account lose appeal after Bitcoins are ruled an asset.
Ke Jiayun

Three Chinese and a Malaysian who locked up an American man and his wife and forced them to transfer 18.88 Bitcoins and 6,466 Skycoins to the gang's bank account have been ordered to return the Bitcoins.

Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People's Court heard that the gang had been sentenced to jail terms ranging from six and a half months to eight months but had refused to return the virtual currency because they believed Bitcoins and Skycoins were not assets in Chinese law.

However, the court ruled otherwise and, since the couple said they had given up the Skycoins, it ordered the gang to return the Bitcoins or pay the couple what they are worth. 

The gang had gone to the couple's home on the night of June 12 in 2018, taking their cellphones and locking them up. They threatened the couple and used violence to take the Bitcoins and Skycoins from their accounts.

The court hearing that case found there was an economic dispute but no evidence to show the couple was to blame for it. Before they were sentenced, the four said they would return the virtual currency.

However, no money was received and the couple filed a lawsuit.

The gang were told return all the virtual currency or pay compensation of 42,206.75 yuan (US$5,953) for each Bitcoin and 80.34 yuan for each Skycoin, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com.

The four appealed, saying crypto-currencies such as Bitcoins and Skycoins were not legal property under Chinese law so the couple didn’t have the right to demand it back.

But the court found Bitcoin to be a digital asset that should be protected by law.

The intermediate people’s court upheld the ruling and made an adjustment regarding the Skycoins.

Liu Jiang, chief judge in the case, said documents released by the People's Bank of China had never denied Bitcoin as an asset and the laws, regulations in China did not prohibit citizens from holding them. However, a notification issued by the bank warns that such "virtual currencies" shouldn't circulate in the Chinese market.

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