Tech by VICE

Suspected Icelandic Mastermind of $2M Bitcoin Heist Escaped Prison and Fled the Country

A series of thefts dubbed the "big Bitcoin heist" took a surprising turn when Sindri Thor Stefansson fled the country on a plane reportedly carrying the prime minister.

by Wajeeh Maaz
Apr 19 2018, 3:51pm

How far would you go for Bitcoin? While stories of people hoarding expensive equipment to mine cryptocurrency are all too common, a suspected Icelandic criminal mastermind blew such weak normies out of the water recently with a multimillion-dollar Bitcoin mining server heist that was discovered in March. Now, the alleged ringleader has escaped from prison in Iceland and is on the run from international authorities.

Sindri Thor Stefansson was one of 11 people arrested for the theft of over 600 dedicated Bitcoin mining servers from Icelandic data centres between the months of December and January, valued at approximately $2 million USD (200 million Icelandic króna). Stefansson is believed to have escaped from captivity in rural Iceland on Tuesday, the Guardian reported. He allegedly fled to Sweden using a passport someone else's name the same day, aboard a flight that was reportedly carrying Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir. Authorities said the series of heists is the largest in Icelandic history and was dubbed the “big Bitcoin heist” by local media.

Read More: The Great Physical Bitcoin Robbery

The escape itself was no Prison Break-esque affair—Stefansson was reportedly being held in a low-security prison with no fences and readily available internet access. Stefansson had been in custody since February and was moved to the low-security prison 11 days ago. It’s believed Stefansson escaped through the window, and Icelandic Police Chief Gunnar Schram told local news outlets that the police are sure he had an accomplice.

Surveillance footage identified Stefansson at Keflavík International Airport, and an international warrant been issued for his arrest. So far though, a Swedish police spokesman told the Guardian that no arrests have been made in Sweden.

The heists Stefansson allegedly masterminded were carried out across data centres over Iceland—including in Reykjanesbær, near Reykjavik airport, and Borgarnes on the Icelandic west coast. So far, the computers have not been found. The owners of the machines have issued a $60,000 reward for any member of the public who can lead police to the missing mining rigs.

Iceland has recently become a hotspot for cryptocurrency mining due to the cold climate and low renewable energy costs, meaning large-scale mining operations are not uncommon—and a target for criminals. I hope screenwriters are paying attention because this seems like plot material for the next Ocean’s movie to me.

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Evading capture