NEWS & UPDATES
104 Cryptocurrency Mining Operators in Rented Premises Caught Stealing Electricity
Stealing Electricity is a Dangerous Crime That Can Cause Fire and Electrocution
9 MARCH 2021
One hundred and four (104) cryptocurrency mining operators have been caught stealing electricity in the past three years, despite Sarawak Energy's constant reminders on its dangers. Many were found to be operating without electricity meters, directly tapping their supply from the mains wiring in an unsafe manner. These unsafe wirings pose dangers to the public at large as it can cause electrical fire and electrocution.
Unregistered electricity consumption, which by-passes the electricity meter, is classified as stealing electricity in Sarawak, as the consumption used is not being registered at all. This is a criminal offence under Section 33(5) of the Electricity Ordinance, which carries a penalty of up to RM100,000 and/or five years’ jail.
Cryptocurrency mining operations require an extensive amount of electricity supply, compounded by high cooling requirements due to the high amount of heat generated. The energy intensive operations run 24/7, and the combination of poor ventilation and unsafe tampered wirings can easily cause fire.
On 25 February, an unoccupied shophouse at Jalan Luak Bay in Miri caught fire and the investigation showed several charred cryptocurrency servers at the site. Illegal wirings hidden inside the wall used to steal electricity were also burnt. A police report has been lodged over the matter and Sarawak Energy will be calling the owner of the premises to assist in the investigation.
Earlier in February, 759 units of illegally connected cryptocurrency mining servers were discovered in five different premises at Assar Commercial Centre in a joint raid by Miri Police together with Sarawak Energy.
Last year, illegal electricity connections were detected at two unoccupied houses used for cryptocurrency mining in Happy Garden, Bintulu and Senadin, Miri after the two houses were razed by fire.
Although no lives were lost in the incidents, three firefighters who were attending to the Senadin incident were at risk of electrocution as the supply to the house was still live due to direct tapping to the mains wiring. Sarawak Energy’s technical team were called to the scene to disconnect power to the house to ensure the firefighters were safe from electrocution while carrying out their duties.
Power theft activities linked to cryptocurrency mining at rented houses in Pujut, Miri also led to 9 power interruptions in the surrounding areas in April last year. Investigations show that all nine operators tampered with the wirings at their respective premises and had their supply coming from the mains, by-passing the meter. This led to supply overload and caused intermittent power interruptions to many customers in the area.
As most cryptocurrency mining centres are operating on rented premises, Sarawak Energy cautions owners or landlords of the premises that they are also liable for the crime, especially when the electricity meters are registered under the name of owners or landlords. Following numerous incidents where legal action has been taken against tenants for power theft activities, the power utility advises landlords to keep an eye on their tenants to avoid legal action being taken against them.
Sarawak Energy’s ongoing and continuous public awareness campaign on the risks posed by these illegal activities has led to more members of the public to come forward to report suspicious activities, leading to the detection of many power theft cases and the subsequent seizure of illegal wiring and disconnection of supply to ensure public safety.
Sarawak Energy has filed a total of 104 investigation papers on cryptocurrency mining premises involved in power theft since 2018, with Kuching (42), Sibu (6), Miri (59) and Bintulu (2). In 2020 alone, these case files stood at Kuching (8), Miri (9), Sibu (6) and Bintulu (2).
Sarawak Energy will continue to carry out meter inspection activities throughout the state and work closely with relevant authorities especially the Ministry of Utilities Sarawak and the Police. Members of the public are encouraged to report any incidents of power theft, including the details of power theft service providers via Sarawak Energy’s customer care centre at 1300-88-3111 or email at email@example.com. All information will be kept strictly confidential.
The shophouse in Miri which was destroyed in the fire on 25 February.
Charred remains of crytocurrency mining gear found in the shophouse
Firefighters controlling the fire at the house used as cryptocurrency mining centre at Happy Garden in Bintulu in November 2020
Illegal connection found hidden in the wall of the rented premises in the recent raid at Assar Commercial Centre in Miri
A total of 759 cryptocurrency servers were found at the rented premises at Assar Commercial Centre in Miri
The police seized all the 759 servers found at the premises at Assar Commercial Centre in Miri.