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A U.S. crackdown on use of the digital currency bitcoin for drug trafficking and other crimes is headed for its highest-profile test yet, as a trial begins for the alleged creator of an online marketplace catering to vice. Jury selection is scheduled for Tuesday in Manhattan federal court in the case of Ross Ulbricht, who authorities say created Silk Road, an online black market where drugs and others illegal goods could be bought anonymously using bitcoins. The trial, expected to run for up to six weeks, will cast a spotlight on the dark side of virtual currencies and so-called Darknet markets where illicit goods can be secretly bought. Ulbricht, 30, has never conceded creating Silk Road and has pleaded not guilty to seven counts including operating a continuing criminal enterprise and conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking. Prosecutors say Ulbricht took extreme steps to protect Silk Road, soliciting the murder of six people who posed a threat. No evidence exists the murders were carried out. The former Eagle Scout faces up to life in prison if convicted. His supporters include bitcoin enthusiasts and libertarians, who call the case an attack on Internet freedom. Joshua Dratel, his lawyer, declined comment.
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