Three cryptocurrency mining operators nabbed for stealing electricity for the second time

Cryptocurrency mining servers running 24-7.

KUCHING, August 31: Sarawak Energy’s utility arm, Syarikat Sesco Berhad’s (Sesco) close surveillance on power theft activities involving cryptocurrency miners led to another crackdown, where three premises were raided for a second time in a joint operation involving Sesco, Ministry of Utilities Electrical Inspectorate Unit (EIU) and the police.

According to a statement yesterday, the raid, held on Aug 24 was the second executive operation targeting business premises operating illegal cryptocurrency mining located near One TJ Stutong Commercial Centre.

The first operation held on Aug 14 was triggered by a public tip-off where the joint team operation raided the premises after securing a search warrant from the magistrate.

During the second executive operation, the team discovered that the business operators used similar modus operandi to steal electricity, tapping directly from Sesco mains wiring, bypassing Sesco’s meter.

“The illegal connection method is very dangerous, could cause short circuit and lead to fire. The operators’ irresponsible act also causes danger to other people staying in the building and within close proximity to the premises,” said a Sesco spokesperson.

Other than illegal electricity connection, the operators were also found in violation of Section 87 of the Building Bylaw for blocking the access to the stairwell’s common area to cover up their operations. This act further compromises the safety of occupants in the building if a fire breaks.

During the raid, huge ventilation fans were also found, believed to be used to cool the long running mining servers. As the cryptocurrency servers run 24-7, the electricity consumption measured from the direct tapping cables was high, estimated to cost around RM10,000 per month for each premises.

All the tampered wirings found at the premises were dismantled and seized for evidence.

A police report was immediately lodged for further investigation. The premises and business owners will be called for questioning to assist in the police investigations and will be brought to court.

SESCO technicians dismantling the illegal connection witnessed by the relevant authorities

Meanwhile, following the increase of cryptocurrency mining centres in the state, the police has initiated close cooperation with Sesco to monitor this activity and to curb its associated social issues.

“Sesco will continue to actively carry out joint operations with the police and EIU to stop this dangerous crime. In 2018 alone, there have been 18 power theft cases involving cryptocurrency operators across the state. Sesco is in the midst of bringing the cases to court through relevant authorities. All identified cryptocurrency mining premises are under Sesco’s close watch for any attempt of power theft,” said the company in the statement.

Power theft can damage customers’ electrical appliances and even cause fire to the premises. Those found guilty of stealing electricity will be charged under Section 33 (5) of the Electricity Ordinance, which carries a penalty of RM100,000 and/or five years’ jail.

Sesco also advises all landlords to always be alert about their tenants’ business activities. This is to avoid the owners being implicated in the crimes committed by the tenants operating within their rental premises, including stealing power under the landlord’s name.

“We thank the public for the information that led to the raids on power theft especially on high risk premises such as these cryptocurrency mining outlets,” said the Sesco spokesperson.

Sesco seeks public cooperation to continue to report suspicious electricity theft activities via its dedicated hotline at 082-443535. All information will be treated as strictly confidential. — DayakDaily