Venezuelan Bitcoin Miners Arrested for ‘Electricity Theft’

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Four Bitcoin miners have been arrested in Charallave, Venezuela according to the spanish-language Bitcoin publication Criptonoticias. The arrest comes at a time of turmoil in Venezuela’s economy, with some individuals turning to Bitcoin.

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Four Venezuelans Arrested for Stealing Power to Mine Bitcoin

In the early morning of January 25, Venezuela’s director of the Corps of Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations (CICPC) revealed the arrest of four individuals involved in Bitcoin mining. According to the report, Alberto José Zapata Orta, Ana Cecilia Farias Villanueva, Néstor Rafael Amundaray Precilla, and Kevin David Ojeda Díaz were in custody for alleged “electricity theft.”

The accused miner’s Instagram account showed the group had roughly 300 miners from brands like Spondoolies and Antminers. The news outlet details the mining operation was found in a town close to the border, where foreign currencies are often traded. The report also explains the accused will face charges of cyber fraud and for stealing electricity. Criptonoticias says that there have been other reports of this type of activity in the country that have yet to be confirmed.

“Previously, similar cases have been reported in Venezuela, although some have not been officially confirmed,” explains the spanish-language Bitcoin publication. “The tense political and economic situation in the country has led to the adoption of the cryptocurrency in this country since Bitcoin offers many freedoms that Venezuelans can not enjoy in an overly controlled economy and a clear recession.”

Other Countries With Similar Arrests

Venezuela isn’t the only country where people are getting in trouble for ‘electricity theft.’ This past September two Dutch brothers from Rotterdam, Netherlands were arrested for stealing electricity to mine Bitcoins. The region’s Openbaar Ministerie detailed authorities had confiscated 200.000 euros and Bitcoin mining equipment.

Additionally, there have been reports this past summer from China where people were accused of stealing power to run cryptocurrency mining operations. The Chinese publication Weibo reported Ma’anshan police took down three facilities and a large quantity of mining devices. Other Chinese news outlets have reported similar findings of so-called ‘Bitcoin electricity bandits’ this past December.

Four Venezuelan Bitcoin Miners Arrested for Electricity Theft
Seized Venezuelan mining farm. Photo courtesy of the CICPC.

Bitcoin Helps Citizens in Venezuela

In the recent arrests in Venezuela, authorities believe money laundering may have been involved. However, Criptonoticias explains average citizens are using bitcoin to purchase necessities that are not readily available in the country. Everyday items such as “cornmeal, milk, baby diapers, butter, soap, detergent, antiperspirants and toothpaste” are purchased with the cryptocurrency. The report further details bitcoin’s buying power, stating:

Not to mention the medicines for treatments for multiple diseases, which are not available in the country’s dispensaries, something that has raised international alarms and caused many to talk about a humanitarian crisis in process.

The news outlet suggests it’s not the first time Venezuela’s socialist government has persecuted individuals for using their own wealth, nor will it be the last.

What do you think about the arrest of these four individuals? Do you think governments are unfairly persecuting citizens? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock, and the CICPC Twitter account. 

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