IT worker’s for­tune ends up buried un­der land­fill

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PEOPLE -

LON­DON: When James How­ells spilt lemon­ade on his lap­top, he de­cided it was not worth keep­ing.

But he is ru­ing his de­ci­sion af­ter he re­alised it had £5 mil­lion (R83m) in vir­tual cur­rency stored on the hard drive.

The stash is now buried un­der 1.2m of rub­bish and mud in a land­fill site.

The 28-year-old IT worker had ac­cu­mu­lated 7 500 units of bit­coin (vir­tual cur­rency) soon af­ter it was launched in 2009. Back then his stash – units of data stored on his com­puter – was worth £20 but their value has soared af­ter the cur­rency took off among online traders.

The price of a sin­gle bit­coin has reached £ 664, mean­ing How­ells’ haul is worth £5m. It dawned on him how valu­able his coins had be­come and he went look­ing for the hard drive.

But when he got to the land­fill site in New­port, South Wales, work­ers broke the bad news that it could be any­where be­neath an area of rub­bish the size of a foot­ball pitch.

“You know when you put some­thing in the bin and say to your­self ‘That’s a bad idea’? I re­ally did have that,” he said.

Bit­coins ex­ist only as units of dig­i­tal data and are not backed by a cen­tral bank.

How­ells gen­er­ated his stash in 2009, when the cur­rency was known only in tech cir­cles, by run­ning a pro­gram on his lap­top for a week.

In 2010, the PC broke af­ter he spilt lemon­ade on it so he dis­man­tled it, He kept the drive and later binned it.

His hoard can only be ac­cessed us­ing a “pri­vate key” and the only copy is on his buried hard drive.

He said he did not mind if hope­fuls tried dig­ging for the de­vice. “If they were to of­fer me a share, fair enough.”

AD­DIC­TION: Michael Cho­pra is a wit­ness in a drug trial.

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