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Man Who Lost Hard-Drive Containing £230m Bitcoin Fortune Offering Council £55m To Dig It Up

Rebecca Shepherd

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Man Who Lost Hard-Drive Containing £230m Bitcoin Fortune Offering Council £55m To Dig It Up

Featured Image Credit: Wales News Service

A blundering computer engineer is offering his local council more than £55 million to dig up a rubbish tip - to find a hard-drive thrown out by mistake with a fortune inside.

James Howells, 35, says the missing hard drive contains bitcoin now worth more than £230 million after he accidentally threw it out in 2013.

The value of the crypto-currency has rocketed - and James is offering council chiefs a quarter of the fortune to help dig it up.

The site that James wants digging up. Credit: Wales News Service
The site that James wants digging up. Credit: Wales News Service

He said: "There's pot of gold for someone at the end of the rainbow - and that ends in the landfill site."

He was clearing out his office when the hard drive got binned along with a broken laptop, old keyboards, and computer mice.

James said: "I had two identical hard drives and I threw out the wrong one. I know I'm not the only person who has ever thrown out the wrong thing but it usually doesn't cost people over £200 million. I have to laugh about it now because what else can I do?"

James has repeatedly appealed to Newport Council for help in recovering the machine - and now offered a 25 percent share of his fortune if workers can pluck it out. But so far his requests have been refused.

James said: "There is going to be a point when the files on that machine are worth more than a billion pounds - the attitude of the council does not compute, it just does not make sense."

James. Credit: Wales News Service
James. Credit: Wales News Service

And he believes that even after all this time the hard drive would still be in good enough working order to retrieve the bitcoin files. He said: "There is no guarantee of that because of the environment it's been in but there are things that give me confidence.

"The outside case might be rusted. But the inside disk, where the data is stored, there should be a good chance that it still works. I believe there still will be a chance. But the longer this drags on though, it's less likely to be a possibility."

James, who lives in Newport, offered to give the money to a council Covid relief fund to help struggling families in the city.

James said: "It's quite a lot of money still sat there in the landfill. 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.

"So what that means is, 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.

"I'd like the opportunity to sit down with the decision makers and present to them an action plan for what we want to do. I hope we can get that. We only want to search in one specific area. We want to employ an inflatable structure to create an air-tight seal around that area to stop landfill gases escaping. The council won't be left to foot the bill."

Credit: Wales News Service
Credit: Wales News Service

Newport Council said James had made repeated requests for help - but it was unable to assist him.

A spokeswoman 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.

"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."

Topics: Community, UK

Rebecca Shepherd
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