T Skevington and M Bacina
Chinese Court decides that Bitcoin is property
Another Chinese court has recognised Bitcoin as a digital asset entitled to protection as a property under Chinese Law. In a case relating to the forced robbery of 18.88 Bitcoin, the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court ultimately found that the stolen Bitcoin was the property of the robbery victims, and that they were entitled to the return of the stolen Bitcoin.
The case arose out of a robbery in 2018, where four individuals broke into the apartment of a couple, and forced them to transfer 18.88 bitcoins and 6466 sky coins to wallets controlled by the thieves. According to the report, the thieves:
used methods of controlling the couple’s mobile phones, restricting their freedom, beating and threatening them,
as part of the robbery.
In the preliminary decision, the court found that the thieves must return the stolen property, and sentenced the thieves to between six to eight months of imprisonment.
The court also decided if the thieves were unable to return the same cryptocurrency, they should instead return local currency valued at the same price as the stolen BTC and Skycoin as at 12 June 2018.
However, the thieves appealed the judgment, arguing [translated]:
The current Chinese laws do not recognise the property attributes of Bitcoin and Skycoin, and do not regard Bitcoin and Skycoin as objects or property in the legal sense of China.
Ultimately, the appeal decision was the same, finding that the thieves were obliged to return the stolen BTC, as the BTC was a valid property right of the victims.
This decision follows similar decisions arrived at by the Hangzhou Internet Court and the Shenzhen Futian District People’s Court, among others, which have previously recognised that digital currency assets have the attributes of virtual property and should be protected in accordance with Chinese regulations. Similarly, the Shenzhen Arbitration Commission has previously ruled that digital currencies should be protected in accordance with Chinese regulations on property ownership.