TNB mulls legalising Bitcoin mining to prevent illegal electricity tapping [NSTTV]

PUTRAJAYA: In light of the rampant illegal bitcoin mining operations and financial losses from illegal electricity tapping nationwide, Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) is looking at ways to legalise mining operations by imposing special tariffs.

TNB chairman and chief executive officer Datuk Baharin Din said a proposal has been drawn up with special tariff rates for Bitcoin mining and this had been forwarded to the Energy Commission (EC) for approval.

"We have made a proposal with our recommendations to legalise Bitcoin mining by charging them a special commercial rate but the proposal is still being reviewed by the EC," he said.

Baharin said they first discovered the electricity tapping for Bitcoin mining in 2018 when at a time there were only 610 cases.

"But, last year the numbers jumped to 3,090 premises being used, and the tapping was done haphazardly, with the illegal operations posing a huge risk to the premises as well as others in the vicinity, through electricity sharing.

"In addition, the (electricity) volume these illegal miners have been tapping was also way too high and detrimental to everyone," he said.

Baharin said to undertake such tapping exercises, a person must be technically competent because it is a highly risky venture.

"There are no safety elements included while they tap the electricity illegally for the machines and it can catch fire easily or cause a power outage," he said.

Baharin was speaking to reporters after sharing the recent success of Op Power, a nationwide joint operation by MACC, police, EC and TNB which managed to cripple 998 illegal Bitcoin mining premises last month.

Also present at the press conference today were MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki and EC chief executive officer Abdul Razib Dalwood.

Azam said 18 suspects have been arrested and TNB losses from 2018 until last year are estimated to be RM2.3 billion.

"The raids were carried out in Perak, Selangor, Pahang, Kedah, Melaka, Johor and Penang whereby 998 premises were found to have tampered to draw electricity (illegally).

"We also identified 23 suspects paying and accepting bribes to allow these premises to operate but five have not been picked up due to Covid-19," he said.

He said those arrested were receiving and paying money so that these illegal operations can be carried out.

"One of the suspects picked up ran 500 premises on his own and on estimation, he pays about RM500 a month for each," he said, adding that the total bribe for the Os Power is estimated to be RM2.37 million.

Azam said the payments were made either through cash or cryptocurrency monthly to and from these suspects.

He said MACC has also frozen 126 accounts totalling up to RM4.47 million and seized 1,157 mining machines worth RM2.3 million in last month's nationwide joint operation.

He said all those arrested will be charged for money laundering under the MACC Anti Money Laundering Act 2001.

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