Tech 23 January 2019

Dan Taylor

Iceland’s crypto mining rig heist leader handed 4-year jail term

An Icelandic man accused of stealing millions of dollars’ worth of crypto mining hardware has been sentenced to four years in prison for his alleged crimes. Sindri Þór Stefánsson was handed the sentence, according to media reports, following his audacious bid to leave the country before facing trial.

Local law enforcement agencies were drafted in to investigate a spate of thefts last year, with three separate data centers in the country targeted by criminals. According to police reports, as many as 600 individual mining rigs had been taken across a number of separate thefts, resulting in losses running into the millions for data center owners.

One of the destinations of choice for large-scale cryptocurrency mining, Iceland offers the ideal combination of cold temperatures and cost-effective energy. However, the thefts have been seen as damaging for Iceland’s reputation in the sector, already dented by the increasing failure rate of crypto mining companies.

The mining equipment was set up to mine Bitcoin Core (BTC), as is so often the cryptocurrency of choice for criminals and fraudsters. With its low population and low levels of crime, the case gained a significant media profile in Iceland.

Stefánsson is one of eleven individuals arrested in connection with the thefts, of which seven were ultimately charged.

While being held in a low security prison, Stefánsson reportedly booked a flight from his cell, jumped out the window, flagged a taxi and drove to the airport. He then boarded a flight to Stockholm, coincidentally the same flight being taken by the country’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir.

After fleeing to Amsterdam, Stefánsson was captured by local authorities and returned to Iceland, where he will now be expected to serve his term.

With Stefánsson now returned to police custody, the high profile case now appears to be drawing to a conclusion. However, for the crypto mining firms affected, the losses remain—at a time of already challenging conditions in the sector.

While compensation has been paid, those affected remain substantially out of pocket, while the mining rigs have never been recovered.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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