Unearthing bitcoin miners


KUALA LUMPUR: Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) has joined hands with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in its fight to put an end to illegal bitcoin activities that syphon power from the national grid.

In cooperation with the Energy Commission, TNB announced the immediate implementation of new measures that would improve the governance and management of the nation’s power assets.

Following MACC’s advice, the measures aim to enhance the identification and prevention of illegal bitcoin operations, while also addressing corruption associated with electricity theft, particularly when some TNB staffers are complicit in such power thefts.

TNB president and chief executive officer Datuk Megat Jalaluddin Megat Hassan said new measures would include an increase in online CCTV surveillance at high-risk hotspot areas, such as Main Entry Substations and Main Distribution Substations.

“We also plan to purchase up to 5,000 units of barrel locks, which will be installed on certain users’ or premises’ electrical meter boxes that have been deemed high risk.

“Biometric keyless systems will also be selectively installed on 11 kilovolt (kV) Electrical Transformers or low-voltage feeder pillars identified as high-risk, which involve around 3,000 units,” he said in his speech at the signing of the MACC’s Advisory Service Report to TNB yesterday.

He later said a pilot project involving the use of drones with heat detection capabilities is currently being tested to identify illegal bitcoin mining centres from afar.

“Cryptocurrency mining can generate a lot of heat, so the drones are flown around identified hotspot areas for illegal bitcoin mining activities to detect unusually high temperatures from buildings,” he said in a press conference after the event.

Energy Commission chief executive officer Datuk Abdul Razib Dawood said the report’s new measures would strengthen internal controls to prevent cases of corruption or bribery from taking place.

“This will create a cleaner and healthier work culture while at the same time increasing the level of organisational integrity,” he said in his speech at the event.

MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki said the new recommendations would also ensure improved governance for TNB and the well-being of the people.“This preventive action is key to reducing losses and ensuring the sustainability of the country’s electricity supply management.

“This will benefit the people the most by reducing the risk of electrical disturbances that may occur due to these activities of electricity theft,” he said in his speech at the event.

To this, Azam said MACC had identified and cracked down on 988 illegal bitcoin mining premises across Malaysia which had all used special devices to avoid detection as they syphoned large amounts of electricity supply from the grid.

“MACC had also successfully apprehended a suspect who offered bribes ranging from RM3,000 to RM300,000 to TNB employees in return for not taking any action and leaking TNB operational information.

“We also successfully seized RM2.37mil from the Bitcoin premises and cash amounting to RM281,180.

“Assets amounting to RM4.47mil involving 97 individuals, 29 companies and 126 bank accounts have also been frozen, while 1,157 bitcoin mining machines worth RM2.34mil have also been confiscated,” he said.

The seizure included ewallet values totalling RM82,000 and cryptocurrency worth US$25,893.46 (RM122,000), as well as five vehicles, namely a BMW, Honda Accord, Toyota Vellfire, Ford Ranger and Audi.

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