PETALING JAYA: Bitcoin mining operators running their operations on stolen electricity and bribing electricity meter readers to help them hide their actions will soon have to pay the piper.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is zooming in on them and their crime which is causing financial losses in the billions of ringgit.
“Graft-busters have been looking at dozens of such operators and they are expected to make their move anytime now,” revealed sources with knowledge of the investigation.It is learnt that these operators, who have branched out to every state in Malaysia, are even willing to pay up to a quarter million ringgit as bribes to meter readers to look the other way and give them a miss.
While it is not against the law to mine bitcoin, running such operations requires dozens of computer servers working on a 24-hour basis, which requires huge amounts of electricity.
Many are not paying their dues and are instead stealing electricity by illegally tapping into power sources or tampering with the meter.
In an interview with The Star, sources said that in addition to cash, these syndicates even offered bitcoin, or cryptocurrency, as bribes.
The authorities, they added, kickstarted their on-ground investigation a few years ago following the sharp increase of losses incurred by the country due to electricity theft by bitcoin miners.
It is understood that the investigations are currently being conducted under Sections 16 (b) and 17 (b) of the MACC Act 2009, which stipulates that giving or offering bribes is equal to the offence of accepting bribes.
If convicted, the person faces maximum imprisonment of 20 years and can be fined not less than five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
However, enforcers face several challenges in thwarting these illegal activities, especially since these premises are usually as tightly sealed like as a war-time bunker.
On Jan 24, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said the country had lost more than RM2.3bil in bitcoin mining activities – an increase of 400% over the past four years.
The number of cases has also drastically increased year-on-year.
In 2018, there were 610 cases while there were 1,043 cases in 2019, 2,465 cases in 2020 and 3,091 cases in 2021, totalling 7,209 cases.