Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are becoming an increasingly popular solution to serving defendants in blockchain-based crimes that would otherwise be unreachable, according to crypto lawyers.
The last year has seen an increase in litigation delivered over NFTs in cases where those accused of blockchain crime wereuncontactable through traditional methods of communication.
In November 2022, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted a United States law firm The Crypto Lawyers its request for its client to serve a defendant via NFT.
While the defendant's identity was unknown, the plaintiff accused the defendant of stealing cryptocurrency to the approximate value of $958,648.41.
After the plaintiff presented a declaration from a crypto investigator to the court confirming the stolen cryptocurrency transactions, the judge accepted the request to serve this defendant via NFT as it was deemed to be a “reasonably calculated” way to give notice.
Agustin Barbara, managing partner of The Crypto Lawyers told Cointelegraph that serving a defendant via NFT is a powerful tool for blockchain crime, where it is “virtually impossible to identify bad actors.”
Barbara explained that summoning an unknown identity through NFT is done through the transfer of the NFT into the defendant’s blockchain wallet address where the stolen assets are held.
He noted that this method is a way of reaching the accused when other traditional methods such as email or post are not viable due to the identity being unknown.
Barbara explained that the content of an NFT court notice would usually contain the notice of the legal action with summons language, a hyperlink to a designated website containing the notice and copies of the summons, complaint, and all filings and orders in action.
Michael Bacina, digital asset lawyer at Australian law firm Piper Alderman, stated that while the “wallet may not be used by the defendant,” and therefore the summons notification may not come to the defendant’s attention, it can drastically limit activity on the wallet and other wallets that have recently interacted with it.
Bacina suggested that it stamps that wallet address with a black mark, which means all other wallet addresses that have made recent transactions with that address could be considered suspicious and affect their activity too. He noted:
Businesses may not wish to accept transactions where a wallet is too close to a wallet which is accused of being involved in litigation.
Bacina added that the advantage of the “open nature of public blockchains” means that it is easy to see if a wallet is in use, and proves to be a good way of knowing if the NFT serving has potentially been seen.
Other court orders have been served through NFTs in 2022.
An international law firm served a restraining order via NFT in June 2022, where it only took an hour between the asset recovery team airdropping the NFT to the wallet address and 1.3M $USDC (USDC) frozen on the chain.
That same month saw U.K. law firm Giambrone & Partners announced it had become the first law firm in the U.K. and Europe to obtain permission to a High Court judge to serve document proceedings via an NFT.