Authorities in Zhenjiang, a city in east China’s Jiangsu Province, have arrested 13 men after they reportedly stole electricity worth roughly $3 million (over 20 million yuan) to mine bitcoin.
The power authority of Zhenjiang noticed an unusual spike in electricity consumption and abnormal line loss in some factories, and reported them to the local police. Investigations found that a gang of 13 suspects purchased thousands of crypto mining machines but could not afford the astonishing electricity bill that the mining operations accrue, so they pulled wires to steal electricity to fuel their power-hungry machines.
During the past two years, from March 2017 to May 2019, the gang had stolen electricity amounting to about $3 million and brought huge economic losses to the factories where these mining machines ran around the clock. But the report does not reveal the amount of profits these power thieves gained from the cryptomining operations.
The case is considered to be one of if not the single largest power thefts for cryptocurrency mining ever. All 13 suspects have been arrested and the investigation is still ongoing.
Stealing electricity to fuel bitcoin mining operations is not new in China. Last month, a man was caught stealing electricity from an oil well to mine bitcoin; earlier in May, a 61-year-old grandmother was sentenced to four months in jail for stealing electricity while mining bitcoin. Another case was recorded of a man that was imprisoned for stealing power from a train network.
China has been clamping down on bitcoin use and bitcoin mining amid stories of scams and power theft. Despite the country’s rigid stance on cryptocurrencies, crypto-related activities, particularly crypto mining, are still thriving along the current price rally of bitcoin.
According to China Judgements Online, a website publishing court documents from the whole country, cases of stealing power to fuel crypto mining reached 20 in China over the past year, accounting for 12 percent of the 363 bitcoin-related criminal cases in the country in 2018.
Cases like this are going to further encourage regulators to curb the tendency to adopt and use cryptocurrencies that are not controlled by the government. In April 2019, China’s state planner classified crypto mining as an industry that shall be eliminated immediately, saying it’s resource wasteful.