I lost £300MILLION in Bitcoin after tossing my hard drive – I've hired a NASA expert to find it but council won't let me

AN IT worker who lost £340million in Bitcoin after tossing out his hard drive has recruited NASA data experts to help find his whopping fortune.

But James Howells, 36, fears stubborn council bosses are willing to leave the treasure chest of Bitcoin buried under piles of rubbish – after he accidentally dumped his hard drive at a tip in 2013.


James is being refused permission to search for the old computer parts – despite offering a quarter of any fortune to the council.

He said the value of the Bitcoin at the dump in Newport in Wales is now worth around £340million – but fears it could be worth a billion before officials act.

James has contacted engineers, environmentalists and data recovery experts from around the world in his bid to carry out the search.

His "consortium of experts" now includes Ontrack – the data-recovery firm which salvaged the charred and battered hard drive from the Columbia space shuttle after it plunged to Earth in 2003.

The Minneapolis company, hired by NASA, managed to recover 99 per cent of the data – despite being found in a dried up lake bed six months after the disaster.

If James' hard drive hasn’t cracked, the firm reportedly believe there is a 80 to 90 per cent chance his huge Bitcoin fortune can be recovered.

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He told The Sun Online: "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.

"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."

James accidentally tossed the hard drive containing the Bitcoin fortune when he was cleaning out his office eight years ago.

His former partner, Hafina, had whisked the rubbish to the tip before James realised he had made a mistake.

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

"That's a lot of Bitcoin just sat there in the ground and I have no doubt whatsoever that in the next year it's going to be worth, £550million, £600million, or even £700million.

"It could be the case that the hard drive is worth a billion dollars and failing to act on it will be incompetence on behalf of the council. It's not a problem that's going to go away."

He added: "The council say they worry about who will meet the cost if it's not recoverable but all of that would be part of a signed contract.

"I'm asking them for a three month feasibility study so we could sit down outline our plans and they could put forward their concerns and we can answer them, but they won't give me that."

James previously explained the search was expected to take 9 to 12 months and would be aided by specially employed AI technology.

He said his plan has been backed by hedge funds who are willing to stump up for the cost of the search as well as the equipment involved in exchange for the lion's share of his fortune.

COUNCIL KILL JOYS

But council chiefs in Newport won't entertain the idea or allow him to meet with officials to outline his plans, James said.

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.

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

In May, James had a meeting with two city officials, but as he recalled to the New Yorker, one of the officials told him: "You know, Mr. Howells, there is absolutely zero appetite for this project to go ahead within Newport City Council."

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."

INVESTMENT WARNING

Buying any cryptocurrency is incredibly risky.

With any investment, there is a risk that the value of your money could go down as well as up. That means you should only invest money you can afford to lose.

Crypto can be riskier than other investments because they are volatile and speculative – their price often rising and falls very quickly, sometimes seemingly for not reason.

Many cryptocurrencies have a short track record, making them difficult to understand and predict.

This type of investment is also not protected by the regulator which means you have no protection if things go wrong.

The UK regulator has warned that Brits risk losing ALL of their money if they invest in cryptocurrencies.

If you are considering investing in any type of crypto, do your research first and only invest money you can afford to lose.

Be wary of scams, too, as the crypto market is often a target for fraud.

Look out for fake celebrity endorsements or social media profiles pushing certain coins.


The risks of buying cryptocurrencies

Investing and making a purchase in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin is risky.

Their value is highly volatile and City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority has warned investors should be prepared to lose all their money.

Investing in cryptocurrencies is not a guaranteed way to make money.

You should also think carefully about making purchases with a cryptocurrency.

For example, Bitcoin has had wild price fluctuations in recent months and the price can change on an almost hourly basis.

The price of a Bitcoin was at $40,258 on January 9, according to Coindesk, but fell to $34,214 just three days later.

That's a 15% drop.

These price swings are risky for a business as you could sell an item for a Bitcoin at one price and the value may drop soon after, leaving you with less money from a sale.

Similarly, the price of Bitcoin has soared by more than 21% since the start of this week so it can be hard for a shopper to get an accurate idea of the price of an item if its value changes on a daily basis.

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