Hundreds of cryptocurrency mining devices seized

PRISTINA: Kosovo police has seized hundreds of cryptocurrency mining machines and arrested one person in the tense ethnic-Serb majority north as the country suffered an energy crisis.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are created through solving complex equations — an endeavour that consumes enormous amounts of energy

Tensions between the Serb-majority area and the ethnic Albanian majority government are running high and Kosovo’s government on Tuesday brought in a temporary ban on cryptocurrency mining in an effort to bring down electricity consumption.

During the operation police “confiscated 272 different anti-miner devices used for the production of Bitcoin”, a police statement said.

One person was arrested, it added.

“The whole action took place and ended without incidents,” Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said on Facebook.

The confiscated equipment uses as much electricity as 500 homes a month or between 60,000 and 120,000 euros ($68,000 and 136,000), said Finance Minister Hekuran Murati on Facebook.

“We cannot allow the illegal enrichment of some, at the expense of taxpayers.”

Ethnic Serbs in Kosovo’s four northern municipalities have not paid for their electricity since the end of the 1998-1999 war between independence-seeking ethnic Albanian guerrilla and Serbian armed forces.

They do not recognise Pristina’s authority as they remain loyal to Belgrade.

According to local media, the total cost of the energy spent in the Serb-majority north is around 12 million euros a year.

The energy crisis in Kosovo has worsened after a production unit of one of the two main power plants stopped working and prompted the government to introduce power reductions in December.

The crisis comes also as a result of rising global import prices and increasing demand.

Earlier this week, police carried out two operations in ethnic Albanian majority areas and seized 70 pieces of crypto mining equipment.

Economy Minister Artane Rizvanolli earlier this week labelled the hunt for crypto currency mining an “emergency measure” due to the crisis. However, police operations raised questions over their legality as experts say there is no legal grounds to ban crypto currency mining as Kosovo has no law regulating the issue.

Pristina said in October it had drafted a bill on crypto currency which the parliament was due to adopt by the end of the last year. The legislation is still pending; however.

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