SEOUL, April 23 (Yonhap) — The Seoul metropolitan government said Friday it has seized the cryptocurrencies of hundreds of top tax delinquents who hid their assets in digital form, becoming the country’s first local government to do so.

The city government said its tax collection department found the cryptocurrencies of 1,566 individuals and heads of companies in three cryptocurrency exchanges and seized more than 25 billion won (US$22 million) in virtual assets from 676 of them.

These 676 owed the government 28.4 billion won in overdue taxes, it said, adding that since the cryptocurrencies were seized, 118 of them have paid back 1.26 billion won.

“We are continually being asked by delinquent taxpayers to refrain from selling their cryptocurrencies as they will pay their taxes,” the city government said in a press release. “We believe the taxpayers expect the value of their cryptocurrencies to increase further due to the recent spike in the price of cryptocurrencies and have determined they will gain more from paying their delinquent taxes and having the seizure released.”

As a case in point, the head of a hospital who owned 12.5 billion won worth of cryptocurrencies immediately paid 580 million won out of the 1 billion won he owed in unpaid taxes and provided security for the rest, asking that his cryptocurrencies not be sold, the city government said.

Another delinquent taxpayer who owes 20 million won also asked that the 3 million won that was seized in virtual assets not be sold until two years later, saying he expects the sum to grow to a size great enough to cover his delinquent taxes and leave some for the taxpayer, too.

The most popular form of cryptocurrency among the tax delinquents was Bitcoin at 19 percent, followed by DragonVein and Ripple at 16 percent each, Ethereum at 10 percent and Stellar at 9 percent. Other cryptocurrencies accounted for 30 percent.

The city government said it will go after the virtual assets of the remaining 890 people who have been identified.