TOULOUSE, France, July 7 French police have
dismantled an illegal Bitcoin exchange and seized 388 virtual
currency units worth some 200,000 euros ($272,800) in the first
such operation in Europe, a public prosecutor said on Monday.
Two people in the Riviera coastal cities of Cannes and Nice
were placed under formal investigation on Friday and detained on
suspicion that they operated a website which illegally sold and
lent Bitcoins to its users.
During a raid last week on one of the suspects' homes,
investigators seized a portfolio of Bitcoins - worth some 9,000
euros per unit - as well as credit cards and computer hardware.
"It's the first time in Europe that a judicial action has
resulted in the closure of an illegal exchange for virtual
currency," Olivier Caracotch, prosecutor in the southwestern
town of Foix where the investigation started, told Reuters.
"It's also the first time in France that Bitcoins have been
seized as part of a judicial procedure."
Police were tipped off to the platform's existence by a
retired policeman who alerted financial investigators after
buying Bitcoins on the site, he said.
The two suspects were being investigated on possible charges
of illegal banking, money laundering and illegally operating a
(Reporting by Johanna Decorse; Writing by Nicholas Vinocur;
Editing by Brian Love and Tom Heneghan)