Bitcoin mining operation stealing electricity shut down by UK police

Cryptocurrency mine found during raid on suspected cannabis factory

Pictures of the Bitcoin mine discovered during a raid by police in Sandwell, England, earlier this month. West Midlands Police

British police have shut down a cryptocurrency mining operation that was stealing thousands of pounds worth of electricity.

Officers from the West Midlands Police made the discovery after raiding the premises of the Great Bridge Industrial Estate in Sandwell, England, on May 18.

Detectives say they became suspicious the unit was being used as a cannabis farm after they received reports that people had been visiting the unit at different times of day.

A drugs search warrant was then issued after a police drone showed the building was emitting a high level of heat.

The technological equipment was seized from the building and inquiries with Western Power revealed the electrical supply had been bypassed.

Around 100 computers had been illegally connected to electrical mains and are believed to have siphoned off thousands of pounds worth of energy.

New units of cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin and Etheruem can be created and entered into circulation - or "mined" - by using computers to solve complex mathematical puzzles.

However, this process uses a large amount of computer processing power and is extremely energy intensive.

Police say around 100 computers had been illegally hooked up to mains supply. West Midlands Police

Sandwell Police Sergeant Jennifer Griffin said: “It’s certainly not what we were expecting.

“It had all the hallmarks of a cannabis cultivation set-up and I believe it’s only the second such crypto mine we’ve encountered in the West Midlands.

“My understanding is that mining for cryptocurrency is not itself illegal, but clearly abstracting electricity from the mains supply to power it is.

“We’ve seized the equipment and will be looking into permanently seizing it under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

“No one was at the unit at the time of the warrant and no arrests have been made – but we’ll be making inquiries with the unit’s owner.”