About 600 computer servers used to mine Bitcoin were stolen in Iceland in a series of large-scale robberies in December and January, according to police.
The servers were taken from data centres in Reykjanesbær, near Reykjavik airport, and Borgarnes on Iceland’s west coast.
About 10 people have been brought in for questioning, and two Icelanders in their 20s and 30s are being held on suspicion of involvement in the thefts, a police spokesman for south-west Iceland told AFP on Wednesday.
He suggested the thefts could be linked to organised crime, saying: “Everything points in that direction.”
Bitcoin is the first, and the biggest, “cryptocurrency” – a decentralised tradeable digital asset. Whether it is a bad investment is the big question. Bitcoin can only be used as a medium of exchange and in practice has been far more important for the dark economy than it has for most legitimate uses. The lack of any central authority makes Bitcoin remarkably resilient to censorship, corruption – or regulation. That means it has attracted a range of backers, from libertarian monetarists who enjoy the idea of a currency with no inflation and no central bank, to drug dealers who like the fact that it is hard (but not impossible) to trace a Bitcoin transaction back to a physical person.
The thieves may have wanted to use the stolen equipment to “mine”, or create, Bitcoin – a potentially lucrative affair but one that requires advanced and expensive equipment.
Investigators are still trying to locate the missing equipment, which is valued at around 200m kronur (£1.45m).
Bitcoin’s value has soared since it came into being in 2009, though it has almost halved from a high of more than $19,500 in mid-December to $10,500 today.
Iceland has become a magnet for cryptocurrency farms, blockchain technologies and data centres because of its cold climate, which is instrumental in cooling the energy-consuming servers, and its low electricity prices.