Four bitcoin miners in Venezuela got into trouble with authorities who are accusing them of stealing electricity in the city of Charallave.
Federal police arrested three men and one woman on charges of cyber fraud and electricity theft, according to a government website. Douglas Rico, director of the Computer Crime Division of the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps (CICPC), said the four were operating more than 300 Antminer units and selling the bitcoins “on a commercial website.”
These people’s mining operation, according to Rico, is negatively impacting “the consumption and the stability” of the Charallave’s electricity services.
Just how serious an electricity theft charge is in Venezuela? Apparently, it is a serious allegation given that the country has been experiencing frequent blackouts in recent years. Bitcoin mining uses so much electricity, so it is no surprise that federal authorities are concerned about the impact of the activity on a city like Charallave.
According to Reason magazine, however, bitcoin miners in the country have “come up with workarounds” to avoid the blackouts, “such as locating their operations in industrial zones, where electricity service is generally uninterrupted.”
Venezuela, if you recall, is wading through the worst inflation period in its history, with consumer price inflation hitting 480 percent in 2016—which is nothing, according to analysts at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), who predicted that the country’s inflation rate will soar to 1,640 percent in 2017.
The situation is already affecting all aspects of daily living in the country, and the reports of food and medical supplies shortages, weak oil prices and rampant theft has forced the government to declare a state of economic emergency. In December, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro decommissioned the 100-bolivar bill in an attempt to “keep beating the mafias” that have been smuggling the bills on the border with Colombia.
Current bitcoin price
Bitcoin traded at a slightly higher $919.74 early Friday morning.