Bitcoin heist ‘mastermind’ flees Iceland
Iceland's Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir unknowingly shared a flight with Sindri Thor Stefansson, who had just escaped from prison
You could not make this up. On Tuesday, Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir took a public flight from Reykjavik to Sweden to attend meetings with four other Nordic heads of state and also Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On her plane presumably would have been the normal official delegation entourage of aides, ministers and security. What nobody knew – not the prime minister, the airline or even Icelandic police – was that also on the flight was Sindri Thor Stefansson.
He wasn’t there to join the high level government meetings. He also wasn’t going on holiday. He was actually on the run from police after escaping from custody by climbing through a window at the open prison at Sogn in rural southern Iceland.
Stefánsson was arrested in relation to the theft in February of 600 Bitcoin “mining” severs. The machines were said to be worth $2 million and local media – which dubbed the robbery “The big Bitcoin heist” – said it was the biggest robbery in peaceful Iceland’s history.
Iceland has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and in recent months it has also become a popular Bitcoin mining location because of its cheap power – 100% of the power generated in Iceland comes from renewable sources – and because its cold climate means mining facility cooling costs are negligible.
Ten people were arrested shortly after the robbery with authorities alleging that Stefánsson was the gang’s leader. The missing servers have still not been recovered.
At the time, hundreds of media outlets around the world, including Asia Times, reported on the heist. Now just as many are reporting on the escape. It does, alas, read like a Keystone Cops script.
Reykjavik police say they did know that Stefánsson was transferred out of the capital to the open prison earlier this month. They also have not yet commented on the fact that the Song prison facility, which reportedly has no fences and inmates are allowed phones and internet access, is less than 100 kilometers from Iceland’s only international airport.
Prison guards apparently only reported Stefánsson missing after his flight had already left for Stockholm’s Arlanda airport. But, despite his obvious hurry, Stefánsson still found time to deactivate his Facebook account before leaving.
An international arrest warrant has been issued with Swedish police now joining in the hunt. Iceland’s prime minister, has so far made no comment. But what, really, could she say?
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