Taiwan Clinic Owners Accused of NT$80 Million Electricity Theft in Crypto Mining Venture
A couple operating aesthetic medical clinics in Taichung City, Taiwan, faces legal repercussions due to their involvement in cryptocurrency mining ventures. Zheng and Su sought to bolster their income by investing in virtual currency mining since 2021. Collaborating with Huang, who established eight mining sites in Taichung, the couple engaged in mining operations. However, suspicions arose as Huang is accused of stealing electricity, resulting in losses of approximately NT$80 million for Taiwan Power Company. The situation escalated when two mining sites experienced electrical fires, posing risks to adjacent tutorial centres and a hot pot restaurant.
A group led by a man surnamed Zheng set up illegal crypto mining sites in Taichung, Taiwan. They stole nearly tens of millions of New Taiwan Dollars in electricity. Police raided 8 locations and are investigating. (Source: epochtimes.com)
Legal and Investigative Proceedings Unfold
Following incidents at one factory in Shigang District, reported to have been a previous cryptocurrency mining site, law enforcement agencies became involved. Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau received reports from Taiwan Power Company in February regarding possible rekindling fires at the factory. Subsequently, Huang, the individual linked to electricity theft for setting up Bitcoin mining sites, faced investigation and subsequent arrests related to several suspected electricity theft cases across different districts in Taichung.
Tracing the Culprits and Investigation Findings
Investigators dug deeper, tracing the main backers behind the mining operation to Zheng and Su, despite their substantial clinic business. The couple invested over NT$10 million through Huang to set up the mining sites. It's alleged that Huang charged NT$500,000 per site, supposedly involved in stealing electricity by manipulating wiring, a practice linked to their mining activities. A series of searches conducted between July and September led to the arrest of Zheng, Su, Huang, and others, with the confiscation of around 700 mining machines.
During questioning, Zheng admitted guilt, while his wife claimed innocence, stating she merely loaned money to Huang for cryptocurrency investments. Huang countered, accusing the clinic owners of being fully aware of the electricity theft.
The prosecution further verified that Su had expressed dissatisfaction with Huang in the "Dig Dig Dig" LINE group. Additionally, she transferred 27.230766 bitcoins, valued at over NT$25 million, into his account using the "ANTPOOL" mining app. Ultimately, the prosecution charged and detained the five individuals for aggravated theft. Simultaneously, they applied to the court for the confiscation of ill-gotten gains amounting to NT$80 million.
Charges and Concerns Arise
As the investigations unfolded, the Taichung District Prosecutors' Office estimated the group's theft of approximately 11.7 million kWh of electricity, amounting to NT$76.83 million. Consequently, charges for aggravated theft were brought against the individuals involved. Additionally, concerns arose about the safety of the mining sites. Two locations displayed signs of potential hazards due to extreme operational conditions, risking fire outbreaks, particularly endangering the patrons of the businesses located adjacent to these sites.
The chosen mining site, situated above a language school with a bustling hotpot restaurant downstairs, posed severe fire risks due to nearly melted wiring caused by prolonged high temperatures and excessive power consumption. Staff at the language school had previously complained about "hot floors" to the landlord but were unaware of the reason.
Call for Stringent Penalties
The prosecution highlighted the potential severe consequences, stressing the risky setting of the mining sites. Moreover, the negative post-incident behaviour of Zheng and Su led to calls for harsher penalties. The situation not only raises legal concerns but also highlights potential public safety risks associated with cryptocurrency mining activities conducted in improper settings.
What is Crypto Mining
Crypto mining is a competitive process using specialised computers, known as mining machines, to earn cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. These machines, equipped with professional chips, often rely on graphics cards, sometimes in arrays of dozens or even hundreds, leading to high power consumption. Multiple machines are commonly used to boost computing power. Mining involves these machines solving complex mathematical problems to verify transactions and ensure the security of the network. This process demands significant computational power, generates substantial noise, and consumes large amounts of electricity.
Mining machines maintain a consistent electricity load, operating continuously to calculate algorithms. This results in a stable, almost straight-line electricity consumption pattern, unlike regular users who typically exhibit fluctuating power usage throughout the day. To detect potential electricity theft associated with crypto mining, electric data acquisition systems collect, process, and monitor power user information in real-time. These systems analyse the distinct power consumption characteristics of Bitcoin mining, enabling the identification and targeting of suspicious or abnormal energy usage patterns for investigation.