January 17, 2021

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Newport man who threw away hard drive containing bitcoin worth £210m will pay £50m to dig up landfill site

2 min read

An IT engineer who claims he accidentally threw away a hard drive containing £210m worth of bitcoin is appealing to his local council to help him find the missing device.

James Howells, 35, said he disposed of what he thought was an empty hard drive in 2013 after having a clear out, only to subsequently realise he had discarded a device containing 7,500 bitcoin.

The panicked computer expert, from Newport, has pleaded with his city council multiple times over the years to allow him to dig up part of the landfill site where he believes the equipment could be languishing. Now he has offered Newport City Council 25 per cent of his possible fortune – around £52.5m – in exchange for letting him try to locate the buried treasure.

Landfill appeal

“The way the landfill operated in 2013 was when a general waste bin was full, it was given a serial number, it was dragged off to the open pit and it was buried. It was also given a grid reference number,” Mr Howell said.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 26, 2020 The photo shows a physical imitation of a Bitcoin in Dortmund, western Germany, on January 27, 2020. - The value of leading cryptocurrency bitcoin fell on January 11, 2021 by 20%, wiping out some of the huge gains racked up in recent weeks, as financial markets became more cautious. The virtual currency fell to $21,061.83 according to the Bloomberg financial news service, a level last seen in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic sparked panic around the world. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
James Howells has contacted Newport City Council a number of times since 2014 about retrieving the hardware said to contain Bitcoins (Photo: Getty )

“So if I could access the landfill records I could identify the week that I threw the hard drive away, I could identify the serial number of the bin that it was in, and then I could identify where the grid reference is located.”

Request denied

Newport City Council has once again refused to accommodate Mr Howell’s request though.

It said in a statement: “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.

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“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.

“Even if we were able to agree to his request, there is the question of who would meet the cost if the hard drive was not found or was damaged to such an extent that the data could not be recovered.

“We have, therefore, been clear that we cannot assist him in this matter.”

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