James Howells, a resident of Newport, has found himself in a battle against the city’s local council in a quest to retrieve his lost treasure. Howells accidentally disposed of a hard drive containing a staggering 8,000 Bitcoin (BTC), and for the past decade, he has been tirelessly attempting to gain access to a landfill site where the crypto fortune is believed to be buried. However, the city council has repeatedly denied his requests, citing concerns about environmental damage. Frustrated and desperate, Howells has now taken the legal route, preparing to file a lawsuit against the council.
Expressing his disappointment, Howells highlights the city council’s alleged unwillingness to engage in a conversation to resolve the matter without resorting to legal action. In an open letter sent on September 4th, he demanded permission to begin the excavation process no later than September 18th. Howells voiced his frustration, saying, “There’s $500 million sitting in the ground, and they won’t even have a serious conversation about it. It doesn’t matter what that item is, whether it is Bitcoin, gold, or diamonds, to not even have the conversation is idiotic.” The investor feels that the council’s lack of cooperation has left him with no other choice but to take legal measures.
The incident that sparked this ongoing battle occurred in 2013 when Howells mistakenly threw away a hard drive containing 8,000 BTC. These Bitcoin holdings were mined in 2009 while he was engaged in a cleanup activity. Realizing the magnitude of his blunder, Howells has since been relentlessly pursuing the recovery of his digital treasure, believed to be buried deep within a landfill site. However, the Newport City Council has repeatedly denied his requests, citing potential harm to the environment.
Undeterred, Howells proposed an ambitious $11 million search plan to the local authorities in 2022. The plan outlined an estimated three-year excavation process that would utilize advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) machinery and robot dogs, alongside human labor. In return for assistance in his excavation mission, Howells promised to distribute 60% of the recovered BTC to those who aided in the search. Additionally, he vowed to give every Newport resident $60 worth of Bitcoin, while retaining 30% of the treasure for himself.
At the peak of Bitcoin’s value in November 2021, Howells’ lost stash was worth over $550 million. However, since then, the cryptocurrency’s price has fluctuated, and the current valuation of the buried treasure stands at approximately $205 million. In his lawsuit, Howells plans to sue the council for damages worth $557 million (£446 million), matching the peak value of the lost Bitcoin. His legal action also includes a request for a judicial review of the council’s decision to prevent him from accessing the landfill site for the past ten years. Howells’ strong stance and the financial implications of the lawsuit pose a serious threat to the city council.
Despite Howells’ persistent efforts and mounting legal pressure, the authorities in Newport continue to uphold their environmental concerns regarding the excavation. A spokesperson for the council reiterated their position, emphasizing the impossibility of granting access to the landfill site under their current environmental permit. Unwilling to engage further in the debate, they stated, “We will be offering no further comments on this issue as it takes up valuable officer time which could be spent on delivering services for the residents of Newport.”
The story of James Howells and his desperate attempt to recover his lost Bitcoin treasure continues to capture public attention. As the legal battle unfolds, the outcome remains uncertain. Howells’ determination to hold the city council accountable for their refusal to allow the excavation highlights the potential financial consequences they may face. The clash between an individual’s pursuit of lost wealth and the council’s obligation to protect the environment shapes this ongoing saga, leaving both parties locked in a battle for resolution. Only time will tell who will emerge victorious in this struggle for a buried fortune.