Reports from Venezuela indicate that the nation’s federal police took four Bitcoin miners into custody today after arresting them in Charallave. The news, reported by Bitcoin news site Criptonoticias, revealed that the suspects were all charged with cyber fraud and electricity theft. Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas Penales y Criminalisticas (CICPC) director Douglas Rico posted a statement to Instagram that accused the foursome of negatively impacting "the consumption and the stability" of Charallave’s electricity services.
According to Rico’s statement, the group of three men and one woman had been operating upwards of 300 computers for Bitcoin mining. They were also allegedly selling the Bitcoins in the border city of Cucuta, Columbia – a popular destination where Venezuelans who are eager to escape their country’s currency controls often go to exchange their currency – or, as in this case, Bitcoins.
The theft of electricity charge is a serious allegation in Venezuela, as the nation’s crumbling socialist economy has experienced electricity and shortages in recent years. Because Bitcoin mining uses so much electricity, it is no surprise that the federal authorities would express concern about its impact on a town like Charallave.
This is not the first time that Venezuelan authorities have arrested Bitcoin miners, of course. Two years ago, two other individuals were arrested by the country’s secret police, only to be released more than three months later. And while Criptonoticias notes in its story that there is no law against Bitcoin mining in Venezuelan, actions like these can have a chilling effect as Bitcoin miners and users become wary of potential government reprisals.