Iceland’s Associated Press has reported that over 600 cryptocurrency mining devices have been stolen what the local police described as “highly organized crime.”
According to the Iceland Monitor, the robbery happened in four data centers in Borgarbyggð and Reykjanesbær, and so far eleven individuals have been arrested in connection with the theft. The devices which are worth about $2 million are yet to be recovered.
The crime has been dubbed “big bitcoin heist” by the Icelandic media, and it is believed the thieves could make more money if they use the stolen computers to mine the cryptocurrency and then sell it.
Police commissioner Olafur Helgi Kjartansson told NBC that was a grand theft on a scale unseen before, adding that everything pointed to this being a highly organized crime.
The police tracking the stolen computers are currently monitoring electric consumption across the country hoping to catch the thieves. Unusually high usage of electricity in an area might reveal the location of the illegal bitcoin mine.
Bitcoin made news headlines last year after it increased in value by over 20 times from less than $1,000 to more than $20,000 which was the peak.
This digital currency that was invented in 2009 by an anonymous figure under the name Satoshi Nakamoto and it can be used to buy or sell items.
Bitcoin doesn’t exist in physical form, and there isn’t central bank or a record of each transaction. It uses anonymized strings of numbers to identify it and is stored on a huge public ledger called blockchain.
Bitcoin mining is flourishing in Iceland because there are affordable electricity and a cold climate which enhances the efficiency of the mining computers which tend to overheat.
Iceland also hosts offices for many mining companies owned by China, and it recently hailed the first Bitcoin ATM, launched at a hotel run by a German.
The fact that electricity is relatively cheap in Iceland than most parts of Europe is due to the country’s plentiful geothermal energy. Bitcoin mining has therefore been in high demand in spite of the country’s population which is just about 300,000 people. Bitcoin mining is likely to draw more energy than all of its residents combined later this year.