Venezuela has arrested a group of Bitcoin miners for allegedly “affecting stability” of the country’s electricity supply.
Thirsty Work Causes Problems for Miners
As reported in local news resource Criptonoticias, four people running 300 machines to mine bitcoins are now in custody in Charallave, Miranda province.
The Venezuelan Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigation Corps said that the operation, which also involved the selling of bitcoins on the country’s border, was having a negative impact on the national grid.
“The modus operandi of these citizens was as follows: through the Internet they had more than 300 miners Antminers to obtain Bitcoins, which they later monetized using a commercial website,” Corps director Douglas Rico commented.
They then went on to market them on the Colombian Venezuelan border in Cúcuta, affecting the consumption and stability of electricity services in the area.
Mining Becomes Gray Area
Facing crumbling finances and a currency shake-up, it is no surprise that the demand for bitcoins and the authorities’ urge to protect resources is resulting in clashes. Despite there being no explicit laws against Bitcoin mining in Venezuela, it appears that even a relatively modest setup can be enough to overstep the mark.
Images from the offenders’ Instagram account show them to be using Bitmain Antminers which “appear to be of the S4 model, while others appear to be SP31 / 35 of the deceased company Spondoolies Tech (sic),” Criptonoticias continues.
It is reported that a previous arrest of Bitcoin mining personnel in March 2016 resulted in a three-month detention followed by release.
While Trading Breaks New Records
Strangely, it is not everywhere that Bitcoin usage is being singled out by law enforcement, despite the ongoing economic chaos in the area.
As Bitcoinist reported in December, one online travel agent has even opted to abandon Venezuela’s fiat currency, the Bolivar, altogether and accept only Bitcoin for payment. The company, Destinia, stated it “had decided to operate exclusively in Bitcoins in order to further facilitate reservations by local travelers.”
Trading volumes meanwhile also continue to strengthen in the face of factors affecting Bitcoin such as China. Data from Coin Dance based on Localbitcoins shows the week ending January 21 was one of the biggest on record for Venezuela, volumes advancing again following fervent activity around the new year period.
The trend is being broadly repeated across other South American markets, with Chile and Brazil also climbing throughout January.
What do you think about the authorities’ arrests of Bitcoin miners in Venezuela? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Coin.dance, cryptomining.net, g4svenezuela.wordpress.com