A bitcoin heist suspect took advantage of an extremely lax Icelandic prison to plot and carry out an unusual escape that saw him flee aboard a plane to Stockholm, seated just a few rows from Iceland’s prime minister.
Sindri Thor Stefansson is suspected of masterminding a bitcoin mining equipment heist. He and his accomplices may have stolen $2 million worth of equipment. Stefansson had been in custody since Feb. 2, one of 11 suspects in a series of heists in November and December of last year that authorities have called unprecedented in the country with its low crime rate. He hopped out of a window of the low-security prison at around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, made his way to the airport, and boarded a flight to Sweden.
There’s no fence around the prison, and inside, prisoners have access to the internet and phones. The inmates are trusted to remain in prison. The Icelandic police believe he had at least one accomplice, and on Wednesday, they interrogated two suspects, both of whom were questioned and released, according to Icelandic newspaper Visir.
“Prison breaks in Iceland usually mean someone just fled to get drunk,” Helgi Gunnlaugsson, a sociology professor at the University of Iceland, told the Guardian. “The underworlds are tiny and it is extremely difficult to hide, let alone flee the country.”
After escaping the prison, Stefansson somehow traveled about 60 miles to the closest airport, where he got on the short flight to Sweden using a ticket bought using someone else’s name. Though Iceland is not a member of the European Union, it is a part of the Schengen zone, meaning he didn’t need a passport to travel between Iceland and Sweden.
It turns out the flight he boarded had another notable passenger: Iceland’s prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who was heading to meet Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
Jakobsdóttir has not yet commented on the bitcoin heist or Stefansson's escape alongside her.
Stefansson is suspected of having swiped about 600 bitcoin mining servers. Iceland, with its cool climate and cheap, plentiful renewable energy, has become a hub for bitcoin miners. And bitcoin mining has become so popular on the tiny island that the practice is threatening to suck up all of the country’s power, leaving none for the essentials, like turning on the lights.
Cover image: WAN CHAI, HONG KONG, HONG KONG ISLAND - 2018/04/07: A Bitcoin ATM machine in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. (Photo by Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)