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The United States (US) Government holds, by far, more Bitcoin than any other public entity in the world. This is not due to crypto purchasing plans approved by Washington but, rather, to a series of legal seizures in the Web3 sector.
In March 2023, the US Government sold Bitcoin for the first time. Since then, it has organized multiple auctions and open market operations involving its BTC holdings. However, the US dominance is no longer evident when we consider retail crypto owners.
This statistics article will answer the question, “Which country owns the most Bitcoin?”. From a government to a retail perspective, there are various ways to examine the matter.
Top 5 Facts about Countries Holding BTC
Here are the main facts to know about countries holding Bitcoin:
- The United States government holds 69,640 Bitcoin following several FBI legal seizures (Forbes)
- Most of this amount (56%) comes from the FBI’s legal seizure of Silk Road’s founders. (Dune)
- El Salvador – which began accepting BTC as legal tender in 2021 – holds 2,473 Bitcoin in its wallet. (Forbes)
- In terms of retail users, two out of three BTC owners (66%) come from emerging countries. (CoinShares)
- Norway has a 2.14% in MicroStrategy (MSTR) through the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund. Considering MSTR’s 158,400 BTC, Norway indirectly owns 3,390 BTC (Coinfomania)
A Look at Governments Holding Bitcoin
The US dominance among governments holding Bitcoin (BTC) is clear and well-documented by on-chain data. El Salvador and Ukraine, for different reasons, follow the US in this particular ranking.
As of 2023, world governments hold an aggregated amount of Bitcoin equal to 73,701 BTC.
More specifically, a staggering 90.3% of this amount is in the hands of the US government, for a total of 69,640 BTC.
This impressive amount largely depends on the fact that, on a historical level, the US FBI seized 259,112 BTC through its legal operations.
Over the years, however, the FBI sold, with the support of the federal government, 189,472 Bitcoins.
Beyond the US Government Dominance in BTC Holding
Following the US, we find El Salvador in this list, with 3.2% of the world government share (2,473 BTC).
In this context, the government of El Salvador never sold a single Bitcoin on the market, following its publicly available cumulation plan.
Next, we find Ukraine to be a top BTC-holding government. In order to facilitate war donations, the Ukrainian government began to accept Bitcoin. The country ranks third in this list, owning 0.8% of the world government-held BTC amount (642 Bitcoin).
Just like El Salvador, Ukraine has not sold any of its BTC as of November 2023.
Slightly below Ukraine, we find Bhutan with its 621 BTC (i.e., 0.8% share).
Moving down the list, Venezuela also holds a relevant share of Bitcoin – 0.3% – thanks to its 125 BTC stored in a public wallet.
At the bottom of the list, we find a European country. Finland seized 85 Bitcoin for legal reasons and promised to donate this amount to Ukraine as support during the war against Russia.
We should also consider the matter of indirect BTC ownership: Norway, for instance, has a 2.14% stake in MicroStrategy (MSTR).
This means that, considering MSTR’s 158,400 Bitcoin, the Norwegian government indirectly owns 3,390 BTC – or 4.4% of the world government share.
Finally, the governments of Australia, Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, and Russia used to hold an aggregate of 31,739 BTC, but they now have sold all of their Bitcoin holdings.
Source: Forbes, PwC
Table 1: Number (and share) of Bitcoin held by world governments (November 2023) (Forbes)
|Governments||BTC Holdings 2024||Share %|
The Origin of the BTC Held by the US Government
When looking at the vast amount of BTC held by the US Government, we must answer the question about the sources of this crypto treasure. Following multiple crypto scandals, the FBI owns several crypto wallets and has chosen to sell only a small part of its BTC holdings.
A relevant part – 44% – of the BTC seized by the US Government through the FBI came from the 2016 Bitfinex hack.
During the Bitfinex exchange hack, a group of hackers stole 119,752 Bitcoin.
The FBI managed to recover 79% of the stolen BTC (i.e., 95,000 BTC), while the others are considered lost forever.
The remaining part of the seized BTC came from the Silk Road operation. The FBI obtained, from the two founders of the Silk Road platform, 32.2% and 23.8% (respectively) of the US total seized BTC amount.
In March 2023, the US Government sold Bitcoin for the first time, with a 9,830 BTC sale operation on the open market.
Following this operation, the Bitcoin sales by the US Government were pursued at an irregular pace, ranging from a small 10.30 BTC sale in June 2023 to an 8,200 BTC similar trade the following month.
It is also worth mentioning that the US Government has organized several public auctions for its Bitcoin over the years. In fact, Tim Draper managed to buy 29,596 BTC at $640 per coin.
Table 2: Largest BTC single transactions by US Government (US DOJ)
|Tansaction Date||BTC Amount|
From Governments to Retail Users
When we turn our attention from governments to retail users, the US dominance is far less evident. In fact, emerging countries are proving to have way more familiarity with BTC than the so-called developed economies in this particular context.
As of March 2023, India had 85.5 million Bitcoin owners in its territory, an absolute record on a global scale.
As a comparison, China only had 27.8 million BTC holders.
The United States market ranks third in this list, with 20.5 million Bitcoin owners.
The first African country in the ranking is fourth. Nigeria reportedly has 15.2 million BTC owners.
Brazil follows Nigeria in this ranking thanks to its 14.3 million BTC users.
The so-called developed countries count 37 million Bitcoin owners, at a 14% world share.
The clearly predominant group in this category is represented by emerging economies, which have 66% of the global share of BTC owners (i.e., 172 million).
Following the MSCI official country classification, most BTC users come from either frontier (16%) or standalone (4%) nations.
Source: CoinShares, MSCI
Bitcoin’s widespread adoption illustrates its influence on global economies, irrespective of their stage of development. The US government’s substantial holdings, primarily acquired through legal operations, showcase the digital currency’s contentious history.
Meanwhile, countries like El Salvador and Ukraine maintain their Bitcoin reserves to aid in their economic stability. Retail users, particularly in emerging markets, are driving the democratization of this digital asset, underscoring Bitcoin’s potential to reshape financial systems.
If we exclude private auctions, the US Government only began to sell its BTC stake in 2023 and has yet to clarify its long-term intentions concerning the large amount of coin it holds.
There are 69,640 BTC stored by the US government as of now in its public wallets.
A relevant share of the FBI bitcoins came as a result of operations like the Silk Road seizure and Bitfinex hacking.
India has the highest number of BTC owners in the world, followed by China and the US – which severely lag behind.
Many emerging markets possess substantial bits of BTC, either for protection against high inflation or because of the lack of a strong banking sector in the country.
There are no clear indications that the U.S. government plans to dispose of all its Bitcoin holdings. The government has organized multiple auctions in the past for the seized BTC and began selling Bitcoin on the open market only in 2023.