The US government has seized at least $5.5 billion worth of bitcoin since 2020, according to analysts.
Its stake makes it one of the world's largest crypto "whales".
Whether it holds or sells its bitcoin stash could have a huge impact on the token's price.
The US government owns billions of dollars worth of bitcoin – and whether it decides to hold or sell could have a big impact on the cryptocurrency's price.
Public filings show Washington has seized over 200,000 tokens from cybercriminals since 2020, according to crypto firm 21.co.
Its holdings are worth $5.5 billion in total, analysts estimated – making the US one of the world's largest bitcoin "whales", a term that digital-asset enthusiasts use to refer to individuals or groups that own large amounts of the crypto.
Tokens seized from the online black market Silk Road, its founder James Zhong, and criminals who hacked the Bitfinex exchange back in 2016 make up a large amount of the government's bitcoin stash, per 21.co's data.
In the past, the government has tended to dump its stakes via auction after relevant legal proceedings have been completed, and then use the money to reimburse victims.
For example, Washington sold 9,861 previously-seized bitcoins via Coinbase in March and gave $300,000 worth of compensation to Bitfinex in July, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The government's sales could conceivably swing the price of the world's largest token by total market capitalization, with digital-asset trading volumes grinding to a halt over the past year.
In 2022, crypto prices cratered as the Federal Reserve's aggressive interest-rate hikes and the collapse of high-profile companies like FTX weighed on investors' enthusiasm for the sector.
Bitcoin crashed below $20,000 and has barely recovered despite a rally for risk assets this year, with the token trading in a narrow range between $26,000 and $31,000 since mid-March.
Lower volatility means that whales can drive big swings all by themselves – so what the government decides to do with its $5.5 billion stash could have a major impact on bitcoin's price.
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