Bitcoin Investor to Sue Local Council After £164 Million Crypto Loss

A former computer engineer, James Howells, who accidentally lost £164 million worth of Bitcoin in a landfill, is gearing up for a legal battle against Newport City Council. Howells is determined to access the site to retrieve the lost hard drive containing 8,000 Bitcoin, but the council has consistently denied his requests. Now, his legal team has issued a request, demanding access by September 18 and seeking damages of $557 million (£446 million), marking the highest valuation ever placed on the missing Bitcoin.

A Costly Mistake

In August 2013, Howells inadvertently discarded the hard drive during an office clear-out, a mistake that has haunted him for a decade. His ex-partner, Hafina, unknowingly took the hard drive to a landfill in south Wales, leading to a long and frustrating battle with Newport City Council to retrieve it.

Legal Action Looms

An open letter from Howells’ legal team, dated September 4, has called on the council to permit access to the landfill site. In addition to seeking damages for the lost Bitcoin, Howells is also pursuing a judicial review of the council’s decision to deny access.

Frustration Mounts

Howells expressed his frustration with the council’s reluctance to cooperate. He highlighted the substantial sum at stake, saying, “They will not even engage in a real discussion about the $500 million that is buried. It makes no difference if it is Bitcoin, gold, or diamonds; failing to even start a conversation is stupid.”

Cost Coverage and Recovery Team

Howells has offered to cover the excavation costs and make community donations. Estimates for a full dig range from $11 million for a three-year search to $6 million for a scaled-down option. External investors are supporting his campaign.

A “recovery” team of 16, including legal experts and data recovery specialists, has been assembled. Each member will receive a share of the crypto assets if the hard drive is recovered.

Hope for Resolution

Despite the impending legal battle, Mr. Howell’s legal team expressed hope for a resolution outside the court system, citing “public benefit” as their motivation.

Council’s Stance

Newport City Council remains steadfast in its decision. A spokesperson stated that excavation is not possible under the council’s environmental permit and would have a significant adverse environmental impact on the surrounding area.

The council maintains that it is the only authorized body for works on the landfill site and has communicated to Howells that his request is not feasible. They added that further comments on the matter would divert valuable officer time from delivering services to Newport residents.

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