Crime & Courts

Police and TNB take proactive steps to combat illegal bitcoin mining operations [NSTTV]

ROMPIN: Police has declared an "all-out war" on illegal bitcoin mining rigs which are involved in electricity theft after confiscating machines worth a whopping RM54 million last year compared to only RM1.2 million in 2020.

The department will work closely with Tenaga Nasional Berhad's (TNB) Special Engagement Against Losses (SEAL) team to conduct monitoring and ambush premises suspected to be carrying out the mining activities illegally.

Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department director Datuk Seri Abd Jalil Hassan said the RM54 million losses resulting from the illegal bitcoin setup involved 570 investigation papers with the arrest of 528 individuals was a far cry from 2020, when only 20 investigation papers were opened, involving 26 arrests.

"Cases involving illegal high-powered cryptocurrency mining machines are on the rise and immediate measures have to be taken. Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Perak and Penang recorded the highest number of cases last year.....this could be due to the huge presence of industrial areas which are seen as an ideal location for the syndicates to operate.

"In the past, those arrested for illegal bitcoin mining activities were investigated under Section 37(1) of the Electricity Supply Act 1990 (fine up to RM1 million) but now they will be punished under Section 379 and Section 427 of the Penal Code where offenders will face imprisonment or fine, or both," he told reporters after witnessing a steamroller destroying bitcoin mining machines seized in Pahang last year here today.

Jalil said a total of 20 investigation papers involving illegal bitcoin machines were opened last year and 10 individuals were detained under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA).

He reminded individuals who were involved in stealing and modifying electricity supply to carry out bitcoin mining activities to repent and stop their activities as the authorities will track and arrest them.

Meanwhile, Jalil said the public can assist the authorities by helping to report the presence of illegal bitcoin mining premises in the neighbourhood.

"The usual modus operandi is choosing secluded shop houses to set up their operations. The bitcoin facility will usually have a continuous whirring noise and the machines will usually generate a lot of heat," he said.

On the ongoing four-day workshop to investigate electricity theft cases which was attended by TNB staff and police at a resort here, Jalil said the outcome will be discussed between the police and the Attorney General's Chambers to identify the criteria which will help to successfully prosecute the suspects.

Meanwhile, TNB Distribution Network head (Operations) Wan Nazmy Wan Mahmood, who was present, said 7,209 cases involving electricity theft at bitcoin premises were recorded between 2018 and 2021.

"Our Seal team will work closely with the police to bring illegal bitcoin mining activities to an end. The team has thermal drones which are able to detect heat displaced by the mining machine blowers and once TNB identifies such activities, we will deploy our men along with policemen to inspect the premises," he said.

He said bitcoin mining activities were not an offence and interested individuals and companies will have to submit their application to TNB and they will be categorised under the commercial electricity tariff to carry out such activities.

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