Iceland is very popular with cryptocurrency miners because the hardware they use requires a cool environment and an abundance of low-cost electricity. When bitcoin was trading at close to $20,000 towards the end of 2017, crypto mining was a very lucrative business. Hardware to mine bitcoin costs upwards of $2,000 and can be in short supply when the price of bitcoin is at an all-time high. Lead times for delivery can be as long as six months when you include customs clearance in the miners chosen country.
During December 2017 and January 2018, over 600 mining rigs were stolen from Reykjanesbær and Borgarnes in Iceland. Police arrested more than a dozen individuals but so far the mining equipment, worth over $2 million, has not been recovered. Two men were held on remand awaiting trial for the thefts, and one of them, Sindri Thor Stefansson, is believed to be the ringleader of the gang. Stefansson was being held at a low-security prison in Iceland that provides telephone and internet access to the inmates.
Despite the home comforts provided by the prison, it appears Stefansson decided he would rather be elsewhere. Associated Press has reported that having spent ten days in the open prison, an accomplice picked him up and drove him 95 kilometers to the airport at Keflavik. Police have apprehended two individuals that they believe were involved in the jailbreak from Sogn prison. Stefansson boarded a plane for Sweden that was carrying the Icelandic Prime Minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir. It’s believed he wasn’t required to present a passport at the airport as the flight was within the Schengen travel area and the ticket he used was purchased under a false name.
Stefansson was arrested in February 2018 for what is known in Iceland as the “Big Bitcoin Heist.” An international arrest warrant has now been issued. The heist of mining hardware in Iceland is not an isolated incident. On a much smaller scale, in March 2018, British police announced that eighteen mining rigs were stolen from a property in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. Miners need to step up their security against organized crime gangs looking for easy pickings. Police believe the criminals are more interested in mining the cryptocurrencies themselves rather than selling the hardware on to other miners.
Financial analyst, smartphone app designer, technical writer, and crypto enthusiast. Blockchain verified graduate of MOOC 9, DFIN-511: Introduction to Digital Currencies, run by the University of Nicosia.