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China police pull plug on bitcoin miners after US$3 million power tip-off
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China police pull plug on bitcoin miners after US$3 million power tip-off

Police in eastern China have shut down an illicit bitcoin mining operation after a power company reported abnormal electricity usage worth US$3 million. Photo: Reuters

An illicit bitcoin mining operation which stole nearly 20 million yuan (US$3 million) worth of electricity has been shut down by police in eastern China.

Police in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province, confiscated almost 4,000 mining devices and have taken “compulsory measures” against more than 20 criminal suspects after receiving a tip-off from a local power company which had reported abnormal electricity usage.

“In value, it is the largest case in the amount of electricity stolen that Jiangsu has cracked, and a rare sight in the whole country,” Zhenjiang police said in an online statement.

Bitcoin is a decentralised virtual currency which can be produced or “mined” by banks of computers solving complex algorithms. The mining process can be very expensive on a large scale because it requires cutting-edge technology and vast amounts of electricity.

The value of bitcoin surged above US$11,000 after Facebook last month unveiled its own global cryptocurrency, called Libra, which will be launched next year.

Unlike a traditional currency such as the dollar, euro or yen, bitcoin has no central bank and is not backed by any government. Instead, the unit is controlled and regulated by its community of users, who argue that this makes it more efficient than traditional currencies.

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