Iranian intelligence officers target illegal cryptocurrency miners

The Iranian government is using intelligence officers to find and stop large-scale farms that have been set up to mine cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC), Bloomberg reported on Friday.

The Iranian Students’ News Agency reported the testimony of a distribution coordinator at a state-run grid operator, who said the Ministry of Intelligence had begun setting up committees across the country to find and seize crypto mining farms.

Iran recently increased its efforts to curb the illicit mining of cryptocurrencies after the nation’s electricity grids began to falter under heavy consumption. The state-run energy grid operator, Tavanir, was forced to restrict power to certain parts of the country due to increased energy usage by miners, resulting in power cuts, and the dimming of street lights.

It’s not just large-scale efforts that Iranian officials are eager to stop. A spokesperson from the country’s Ministry of Energy recently reminded citizens that mining crypto at home was also illegal and that anyone caught doing so would face heavy fines if caught.

Cryptocurrency mining is considered a legitimate industrial activity in Iran. It is subject to licensing, and the pricing of electricity used in the process is regulated by the government. A spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Energy, Mostafa Rajabi, stated that as much as 87% of cryptocurrency mining in Iran was considered illegal.

One fruitful source of information for the government on the operation of mining farms is reportedly local whistleblowers, who are incentivized with cash rewards to notify authorities of illegal activity. This year, the national grid operator doubled the maximum reward for successful tip-offs, raising it to 200 million rials ($873) — more than four times the median monthly salary in the country.

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