Venezuelan Police Bust Bitcoin Mining Farm for Stealing Electricity; Authorities Claim Operators Linked to Polish Organized Crime Syndicate

Venezuelan police have usted a massive bitcoin mining operation in the state of Carabobo for stealing electricity. The investigation was carried out by the Organized Crime Bureau of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB).

According to PNB statements made on Friday, the bitcoin mining devices - numbering 11,000 - were operational in a warehouse located in the industrial area of Los Guayos. Photographs of the mining devices reveal that the group was using the PicoStocks 100TH model, developed by PicoStocks using boards made by the BioInfoBank Institute, a non-profit R&D group based in Poland.

The mining farm was overseen by two Venezuelans: 51-year-old Eusebio Gómez Henríquez and 31-year-old Andrés Alejandro Carrero Martínez. Investigators have alleged that the duo is part of an international crime organization based in Poland, which is involved in “money laundering, computer crime, financing terrorism, electronic theft and exchange fraud, through the production of such a virtual device in various parts of the country.”

The investigation was initiated when officers from another PNB division began to noticed large crates being delivered to the warehouse. As the investigation continued, authorities realized the mysterious crates contained bitcoin mining devices.

To evade detection by authorities, Venezuelan police said cryptocurrency mining operators often disguise their mining farms as data centers and other internet-related businesses. According to the press release, the PNB is currently conducting several other investigations into digital currency mining farms in Venezuela.

Bitcoin mining has become a very lucrative business in Venezuela due to the extremely low electricity prices. Power costs in Venezuela between 0.01-0.02 USD per kilowatt hour - a figure unheard of in the rest of the world. Even China, where electricity prices average about 0.11 USD per kilowatt hour in 2015, according to data gathered by Statista, is expensive compared to Venezuela.