- In a parking lot at police headquarters, Malaysian authorities seized 1,069 bitcoin mining rigs and destroyed them with a steamroller.
- The crypto crackdown, according to Assistant Commissioner of Police Hakemal Hawari, started after miners allegedly stole $2 million worth of electricity from Sarawak Energy power lines.
It's a crypto crackdown, to look at it that way.
As part of a joint operation between law enforcement in the city of Miri and electric utility Sarawak Energy, Malaysian officials confiscated 1,069 bitcoin mining equipment, laid them out in a parking lot of the police headquarters, and crushed them under with a steamroller.
The crackdown started when miners allegedly stole $2 million worth of electricity from Sarawak Energy power cables, according to Assistant Commissioner of Police Hakemal Hawari.
Dayak Daily, a local Sarawak news agency, published a video of the event last week, which has since gone popular on social media.
Authorities on the island of Borneo confiscated the rigs in six different searches between February and April after receiving a tip. A total of $1.26 million in mining equipment was destroyed by police.
In compliance with a court order, police chose to crush the mining equipment rather than sell it. Other countries, such as China, have taken a different approach, with seized oil rigs apparently being auctioned off.
Three residences in the city burned down as a result of bitcoin miners stealing electricity, according to Hawari. According to the Miri police commander, there are no other active mining operations at the moment.
Crypto mining is the time-consuming and energy-intensive process of creating new bitcoin. When people say they're "mining," they're actually attempting to solve a hard arithmetic problem with the help of a highly specialised computer. That problem must be solved in order to unlock new tokens and verify new transactions. However, running those devices at full capacity consumes a lot of energy, putting local power networks at risk.
While cryptocurrency mining is not illegal in Malaysia, there are strict regulations on electricity usage. Those who tamper with power lines face fines of up to 100,000 Malaysian ringgit ($23,700) and five years in prison under Section 37 of Malaysia's Electricity Supply Act.
Malaysia accounts for 3.44 percent of all bitcoin miners worldwide, according to the Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance, making it one of the top ten mining destinations on the planet.
Eight people have been arrested in connection with the mining activity in Miri, and six people have been charged with stealing energy supplies under Section 379 of the Penal Code, according to Hawari. Those prosecuted face an eight-month prison sentence and a fine of up to $1,900 per person.
This is just the latest example of Malaysia's ongoing battle to apprehend cryptocurrency miners.
A bitcoin miner stole $2.2 million worth of electricity from energy firm Tenaga Nasional Berhad in Melaka, Peninsular Malaysia, in March.
Malaysian Borneo has a substantially lower population density than Peninsular Malaysia.
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