Robbery suspect Sindri Thor Stefansson has escaped from custody and fled to Sweden on a plane which was reported to have been carrying Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir.
Stefansson was being detained on suspicions of being the mastermind behind what has become known in Iceland as “the big Bitcoin heist”, the robbery of 600 computers used to mine Bitcoin.
He escaped from the Sogn open prison in rural southern Iceland early on Tuesday and boarded a plane at Keflavik International Airport some 95km away. He was only reported missing after the flight to Stockholm had taken off.
Stefansson’s plane was also reported to have been carrying the Icelandic prime minister who was on her way to a meeting in Stockholm with five Nordic prime ministers and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In what is thought to be Iceland’s biggest theft, the 600 computers worth 200 million Icelandic krona (ISK) – about USD 2 million – were reportedly stolen in four separate burglaries. Stefansson, thought to have been the brains behind the heist, was one of 11 people arrested. Police have arrested 22 people including a security guard.
Iceland has now become a centre for cryptocurrency mining due to the combination of plentiful renewable energy sources and a cold climate, suited for mining due to low electricity tariffs and low cooling costs. Lower costs generate higher profits for cryptocurrency miners, which have created a situation in Iceland where electricity consumption for mining has overtaken household use.
As yet, the computers haven’t been recovered and the owners have put out a USD 60,000 reward for their recovery. An international warrant has been issued for Stefansson’s arrest and Swedish police are now involved in the search. Several people, including the suspect’s wife, have been questioned by police but no arrests have been made, according to local media.
Iceland with its population of only 340,00 is reputed to have one of the world lowest crime rates.