Venezuelan authorities arrest 4 bitcoin miners
Venezuelan authorities have arrested four people allegedly involved with a cryptocurrency-mining operation based in a small city about an hour and a half’s drive from Caracas, according to local media reports.
Three men and one woman with ages ranging from 23 to 57 were charged with cyberfraud and stealing electricity, according to Douglas Rico, director of Venezuela’s Criminal Investigations Corps.
The news was initially reported by Criptonoticias, a Venezuela-based news outlet that focuses on cryptocurrencies.
It isn’t clear whether the four paid for the electricity used to power their mining equipment, Criptonoticias reported.
Authorities confiscated 300 mining terminals, according to photos published on Rico’s Instagram account, Criptonoticias reported. The models included Antminer S4s, produced by Beijing-based Bitmain, and SP31 Yukons, manufactured by Israel-based Spondoolies.
The bitcoins mined by the accused were exchanged in Cucuta, Colombia, a border city that has become embroiled in Venezuela’s economic crisis.
Venezuelans are warming to bitcoin as a worsening economic crisis has led to massive inflation and food shortages. Some Venezuelans are using bitcoin to buy food, medicine and airplane tickets, Criptonoticias reports. It didn’t elaborate on how exactly Venezuelans pay for food in bitcoin. But Destinia, a travel agency that sells airplane tickets, accepts payment in bitcoin.
Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, was recently trading at 3,684 to the dollar on the black market.
In 2016, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro briefly enforced a strict electricity rationing program in 2016 as a severe drought diminished its ability to produce hydroelectric power.
One bitcoin US:BTCUSD was trading at $919 on Thursday.
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