Bitcoin crime increased drastically in 2021 – Police

by BERNAMA / pic by BLOOMBERG

ROMPIN – The crime of illegal bitcoin mining showed a drastic increase last year with 570 investigation papers opened, 528 people arrested and RM54 million worth of equipment and items seized.

Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department (CID) chief, Datuk Seri Abd Jalil Hassan said these numbers were considered very high compared to the previous year’s statistics, with only 20 investigation papers opened and 26 people arrested, and the total seizures valued at RM1.26 million.

“The majority of those arrested were aged 18 to 30 years, believed to be easily influenced simply because of the promise of lucrative income while the oldest suspect was aged 61.

“We also opened 20 files under the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA) last year and from this number, 10 individuals so far have been placed under restriction order,” he said at a press conference after witnessing the disposal of items used in electricity theft for bitcoin mining activities by the Pahang contingent police, here, today.

Also present were Pahang police chief, Datuk Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf; its CID chief, SAC Mohd Yusri Othman, Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) chief distribution network officer, Wan Nazmy Wan Mahmood and Rompin magistrate, Wahidah Zainal Abidin.

Statistically, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Perak and Penang registered the highest number of illegal bitcoin mining cases as the offenders would take advantage of the large number of industrial areas in these states for the activity since it uses a lot of electricity.

“Most of the suspects used business premises that are isolated or hidden from the public as the activity will emit noise and heat apart from frequently causing power outage due to the high usage of electricity,” said Abd Jalil.

He said police would discuss with the Attorney-General’s Chambers to charge the offenders under Section 379 and Section 427 of the Penal Code which provide for imprisonment compared to Section 37 of the Electricity Supply Act 1990 which carries a fine or imprisonment, if convicted.

Meanwhile, Wan Nazmy said a total of 7,209 cases of electricity theft involving bitcoin mining premises were recorded over a period of three years from 2018.

“This activity has also resulted in fire outbreaks due to non-compliance with specifications of the Energy Commission and TNB.

“TNB now uses drones which can detect heat from the air at premises suspected of committing electrical theft for illegal bitcoin mining apart from monitoring areas recording high electricity usage but with low meter readings,” he said.

Wan Azmy added that TNB’s Special Engagement Against Losses (SEAL) team, formed 10 years ago, had been strengthened in the last three years to combat electricity theft for illegal bitcoin mining.