Recently, U.K police followed up a rewiring tip-off, expecting to bust a cannabis farm, only to discover an illegal Bitcoin mining operation.
Globally, cryptocurrency is generally permissible under the law, whereas cannabis is not. As such, it makes sense that criminals are increasingly turning to Bitcoin mining over cannabis. However, this does little to help Bitcoin’s already dubious reputation.
Bitcoin is the new weed
The joint investigation was conducted between February and April this year by Malaysian police and the local energy firm Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB).
Miri’s Assistant Commissioner of Police, Hakemal Hawari, said eight individuals were arrested for their role in using stolen electricity to mine Bitcoin during this period.
“A total of six people have been successfully charged under Section 379 of the Penal Code for electricity theft and have been fined up to RM8,000 and jailed for up to eight months,” he said.
Hawari also said SEB had lost almost $2 million as a result of the electricity theft. He added the drain on the electricity supply resulting from the operation had caused frequent blackouts in the area.
“The electricity theft for mining bitcoin activities has caused frequent power outages and in 2021, three houses were razed due to illegal electricity supply connections.”
Possession of 200 grams of cannabis in Malaysia is deemed drug trafficking and carries a mandatory death penalty. Being caught with 50 grams or less will turn up a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Taking this into account, the risk of being caught illegally mining Bitcoin makes a more acceptable proposition compared to getting caught growing cannabis, at least in Malaysia.
Malaysian police show no mercy
In a rather unusual approach to law enforcement, Miri police decided to destroy the seized Bitcoin miners by way of steamroller. What’s more, the event was filmed and uploaded to YouTube, attracting over 330,000 views so far.
The crushing took place in the parking lot of the Miri district police headquarters. Reports indicate the police collected the rigs over the course of six separate raids.
Neither the local press nor the police gave comment on the severity, and arguably the wastefulness, of the crushing. But some believe it was about sending a message to others doing, or thinking of doing, the same.
All the same, with the lure of “easy money,” and the comparatively lenient punishment for being caught, illegal Bitcoin mining won’t be going away anytime soon.
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