NEWS & UPDATES
Another Cryptocurrency Mining Operator Caught Stealing Electricity in Sibu
High energy consumption in a new and empty commercial shoplot gave it away
23 NOVEMBER 2020
An unoccupied shoplot registering high energy consumption led to the discovery of a power theft case involving a cryptocurrency mining operation that was occupying two floors of the building near Jalan Bukit Assek.
Following several public tip-offs on suspicious activities at the premises, Sarawak Energy’s utility arm, Syarikat SESCO Berhad (SESCO) and the Sibu Police in a joint executive action, recently raided the shoplot equipped with a search warrant obtained from the Magistrate Court.
The warrant enabled access into a locked stairwell where the team discovered tampered cables used to tap electricity directly from the main supply located at the five-footway (corridor) of the shoplot. Tampered wirings were found hidden behind the cable clip in the ceiling to avoid detection. Sarawak Energy technicians are well-trained to detect various tampering methods. These tampered wirings are used to tap electricity supply from the main incoming cable by-passing the meter, resulting in electricity consumption used not being registered at all.
The unusual high energy consumption was detected when the load reading taken at the distribution board showed energy consumption of the premises was between RM26,000 and RM30,000 per month as opposed to their monthly bill of about RM300 a month since June 2020. Cryptocurrency mining servers are energy intensive machines that normally operates 24 hours daily, requiring cooling units to avoid the machines from overheating.
All the unsafe tampered wirings and meters were seized for evidence. A Police report has been lodged and the premises owner will be called in to assist in the investigation under Section 33(5) of the Electricity Ordinance. Stealing electricity is a criminal offence which carries a penalty of up to RM100,000 and/or five years’ jail.
Sarawak Energy continuously reminds customers not to trust any service providers claiming to be able to reduce electricity use or allow premises owner to enjoy unlimited usage of electricity through meter tampering. Power theft is a crime and it can also damage electrical appliances leading to fire jeopardising safety and endangering lives.
On 11 November, a house in Happy Garden, Bintulu used for cryptocurrency mining activities was razed by fire. Investigation found wirings supplying electricity were tampered with, connecting directly from the mains and by-passing the electricity meter.
In October, a 42-year-old cryptocurrency mining operator and his 48-year-old accomplice pleaded guilty to power theft charges at the Miri Sessions Court. Both the accused were charged under Section 33 (5) for illegally by-passing the electricity meter at a residential house at Jalan Desa Bahagia, off Jalan Pujut 7, Vista Perdana. The operator was also charged with endangering human lives and interfering with electrical installations under the Ordinance.
In another separate incident in April, cryptocurrency mining operations at rented houses caused nine (9) power interruption incidences in Pujut, Miri and its surrounding areas. All the nine operators tampered with their wirings and have their supply coming directly from the mains, by-passing the meter. The energy intensive activity caused overloading and tripped the supply system. The power interruptions cause inconveniences to other customers in the area.
The Electrical Inspectorate Unit (EIU) of the Ministry of Utilities Sarawak, together with Sarawak Energy have investigated 95 cryptocurrency mining related power theft cases since 2018, with Kuching (34), Sibu (5), Miri (55) and Bintulu (1). This year alone Kuching, Sibu and Miri records five (5) cases each, while Bintulu with one (1) case.
Sarawak Energy advises landlords to constantly be alert over their tenants’ activities so as to avoid being implicated in the power theft crime committed by tenants at the rented premises.
Sarawak Energy will continue to actively carry out meter inspection activities throughout Sarawak with assistance from all relevant authorities especially the Ministry of Utilities Sarawak and the Police. Members of the public may report any suspicious activities related to power theft and on service providers claiming to be able to reduce electricity use. They can do so by contacting Sarawak Energy’s customer care centre at 1300-88-3111 or email at email@example.com. All information will be kept strictly confidential.
The premises located at the first and second floor of shoplots near Jln Bukit Assek
The team gains entry into the stairwell with a search warrant
Direct tapping cables found hidden behind cable clip
Tampered cables found at the premises’ five foot way