A man who claims he accidentally threw away a hard drive containing hundreds of millions of pounds in cryptocurrency has said he will give his local council one-quarter of the fortune if they let him dig it out of landfill.
James Howells, 35, said his old laptop’s hard drive contained 7,500 bitcoin – currently worth about £200m – but that it has been buried in a rubbish tip in Newport, south Wales, since 2013 after he confused it for an obsolete one.
The IT worker told WalesOnline he had made several offers to the council to share the money, and that he is now prepared to give more than £50m to benefit “anyone who is struggling right now”.
“Basically what I'm saying to Newport Council is if you allow me to search in a specific area, and I find it, I'm happy to give the people of Newport 25 per cent,” he said.
Mr Howells began mining bitcoin when they were first created in 2009, accruing thousands of them at a time when they were worth just pennies. Over time the volatile cryptocurrency’s value has increased, with prices peaking in early January at just under £30,000 for a single unit.
But the local authority has refused to let Mr Howells look for the hard drive, claiming that its licensing permit prevents excavation and that any attempt to find it could cost millions without any guarantee it would be recovered or even work.
“I have got an international hedge fund who are willing to put up anywhere between £2.5m to £3.5m to do a professional search operation of the landfill,” Mr Howells told Wales Online.
“Basically, to do the job properly to all environmental standards because at the end of the day even though that is a lot of money it's still worth it.”
A Newport City Council spokesperson said: “Newport City Council has been contacted a number of times since 2014 about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain Bitcoins.
“The first time was several months after Mr Howells first realised the hardware was missing.
“The cost of digging up the landfill, storing and treating the waste could run into millions of pounds, without any guarantee of either finding it or it still being in working order.
“The council has also told Mr Howells on a number of occasions that excavation is not possible under our licencing permit and excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area.”