Bitcoin ‘millionaire’ who chucked crypto fortune hires NASA experts to scan tip

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A man who lost £340million in Bitcoin after he accidentally threw out an old hard drive has hired data experts who once helped NASA – in a bid to find his missing fortune.

IT worker James Howells, 36, has reached out to Ontrack to help him find the cryptocurrency after he tossed the equipment out when he was cleaning his office in Newport, Wales back in 2013.

The company were previously hired by NASA to recover an important hard drive from the Columbia space shuttle after it plunged to Earth in 2003.

And despite the hard drive being located in a dried-up lake bed six months after the crash, the Minneapolis company were able to recover 99% of the data.

Ontrack believes there is an 80% to 90% chance James’ huge Bitcoin fortune can be recovered – if the hard drive hasn’t cracked.

But council bosses have so far refused James permission to search the rubbish tip for the missing computer parts – despite him offering them a quarter of any fortune found.

James said that by the time he had realised that he had thrown out the equipment, his former partner, Hafina, had already taken the rubbish to the tip.

He told The Sun: "I have put together a full consortium of experts in the field to refute all of the claims that the council has said it has concerns over.

"I've spoken to data recovery experts who have worked with NASA on the Columbia space shuttle disaster.

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"They were able to recover from a shuttle that exploded and they don't seem to think that being at a landfill will be a problem.

"The current valuation is £342million but around a week ago it was at its peak of £420million."

James fears the value of his Bitcoin could soar to more than one billion dollars by the time council chiefs decide to act.

He claims the council worry about who will cover the cost if the hard drive is not recoverable – but James says “that would be part of a signed contract”.

James previously explained the search was expected to take nine to 12 months and would be aided by specially employed AI technology.

He has studied aerial photographs of the site and believes the hard drive is in a 200 metre squared area and could be 15 metres deep.

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A spokeswoman for Newport City Council 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."

She went on: "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."

  • Bitcoin
  • Nasa
  • Money

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