Category Archives: Iceland

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Stolen Icelandic Bitcoin Miners Found in China?

Police in Tianjin, China have seized 600 Bitcoin mining rigs, exactly the same amount of machines that were stolen in Iceland during a series of heists in December and January. The Bitcoin mining farm caused a short circuit on its electricity meter and was stealing power; electricity authorities noted a 28% increase of power loss on one of their lines prompting an investigation.

It is estimated that if the illegal operation wasn’t stopped it would have cost hundreds of thousands of Chinese yuan (1 USD = 6.3 CNY) per month of electricity, making it one of the biggest power theft cases in recent years. Bitcoin mining utilizes a tremendous 65 TWh of electricity worldwide per year, approximately the same amount of energy consumed by the entire Czech Republic.

Icelandic police had been tracking electricity usage across their country in hopes that once the stolen machines were plugged in they would cause an abnormal spike in electricity usage. This was perhaps the only way they would ever track down the missing Bitcoin mining rigs, since the thieves would likely use the machines to turn a big Bitcoin profit rather than to try and sell them to someone else.

Eleven people were initially arrested in Reykjavik, Iceland after the thefts occurred in December and January, but only two were kept in custody. A reward of ISK 6 million (Icelandic krona, approximately USD 60,000) has been offered by the owners of the stolen Bitcoin mining rigs for information leading to their recovery.

A news agency contacted Icelandic police regarding the seizure of the 600 rigs from the illegal Chinese Bitcoin mining farm, resulting in the Icelandic police sending an inquiry to Chinese police. So far, Icelandic police have not received a response, but once communication is established it will be possible to verify with serial numbers whether the seized machines are in fact the stolen machines from Iceland.

 

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“Big Bitcoin Heist” Escapes on Icelandic PM’s Plane

Robbery suspect Sindri Thor Stefansson has escaped from custody and fled to Sweden on a plane which was reported to have been carrying Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir.

Stefansson was being detained on suspicions of being the mastermind behind what has become known in Iceland as “the big Bitcoin heist”, the robbery of 600 computers used to mine Bitcoin.

He escaped from the Sogn open prison in rural southern Iceland early on Tuesday and boarded a plane at Keflavik International Airport some 95km away. He was only reported missing after the flight to Stockholm had taken off.

Stefansson’s plane was also reported to have been carrying the Icelandic prime minister who was on her way to a meeting in Stockholm with five Nordic prime ministers and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In what is thought to be Iceland’s biggest theft, the 600 computers worth 200 million Icelandic krona (ISK) – about USD 2 million – were reportedly stolen in four separate burglaries. Stefansson, thought to have been the brains behind the heist,  was one of 11 people arrested. Police have arrested 22 people including a security guard.

Iceland has now become a centre for cryptocurrency mining due to the combination of plentiful renewable energy sources and a cold climate, suited for mining due to low electricity tariffs and low cooling costs. Lower costs generate higher profits for cryptocurrency miners, which have created a situation in Iceland where electricity consumption for mining has overtaken household use.

As yet, the computers haven’t been recovered and the owners have put out a USD 60,000 reward for their recovery. An international warrant has been issued for Stefansson’s arrest and Swedish police are now involved in the search. Several people, including the suspect’s wife, have been questioned by police but no arrests have been made, according to local media.

Iceland with its population of only 340,00 is reputed to have one of the world lowest crime rates.

 

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