Icelandic bitcoin-heist suspect escapes jail and flees the country — on the same plane as the prime minister

Iceland’s PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir and India’s PM Narendra Modi. Picture: Getty Images

  • Sindri Thor Stefansson was arrested in February by investigating the theft of $US2 million worth of bitcoin-mining computers.
  • Stefansson escaped from open prison and has reportedly flown to Sweden on a fake or stolen passport.
  • Stefansson may have flow on the same plane as Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, according to reports.

A suspect at the centre of an investigation into a bitcoin-related heist in Iceland has reportedly escaped jail and fled to Sweden on a plane.

Icelandic news provider Visir reports that Sindri Thor Stefansson escaped from an open prison where he was being held on Saturday. The prison was not guarded by a fence and prisoners are trusted to remain within the facility.

Stefansson was later identified in CCTV footage at an Icelandic airport and is believed to have flown to Arlanda airport in Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, using either forged or stolen documents. An international arrest warrant has been issued for Stefansson.

The BBC reports that Stefansson may have fled the country on the same plane that was carrying Iceland’s prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir. Jakobsdóttir was travelling to Stockholm for a meeting of Nordic leaders and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Stefansson had been in police custody since February 2, Visir reports. He is one of 11 people who have been arrested in connection with the theft of 600 computers across data centres in Iceland between December and January. The computers are specially designed to mine bitcoin and are worth a reported 200 million Icelandic Krona ($US2 million).

Crypto mining is the process by which new bitcoins are created and involves solving complex cryptographic problems. The computing power required to crack these problems has grown exponentially since the creation of bitcoin in 2009 and it now takes huge banks of servers to crack codes. Online mining “pools” have sprung up that allow people to plug their computer capacity into digital networks and earn a share of the collective rewards.

Iceland has become a European hotspot for bitcoin mining because its cold climate naturally lowers the cost of cooling the computing equipment. (You can see what an Icelandic bitcoin mine looks like in this Business Insider photo essay.)

A single bitcoin is worth $8,000 and the potential rewards of mining them have tempted many people around the world to break the law or bend the rules.

The CEO of cybersecurity company Darktrace told a conference last week that her company had seen 1,000 cases in the US of people stealing computer power from their employers to mine bitcoin in just the last 6 months.

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