Icelandic bitcoin fugitive caught in Amsterdam
Dutch authorities are preparing to extradite Stefansson, who claims he was held without charge in Iceland and was legally allowed to leave prison
Amsterdam police have confirmed the arrest of Icelandic fugitive Sindri Thor Stefansson, who is suspected of masterminding the theft of 600 bitcoin mining computers worth approximately $2 million.
Dutch police say Stefansson was arrested on Sunday night in downtown Amsterdam. Stefansson left a low-security prison in rural southern Iceland last week and made worldwide headlines after he reportedly traveled by plane to Sweden on the same flight as Iceland’s prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir.
In another twist to a saga that Icelandic media have dubbed “The Great Bitcoin Heist,” Stefansson wrote to local Icelandic newspaper Frettabladid on Friday saying he was actually legally allowed to leave prison, but police had told him he would be arrested if he did so.
“I simply refuse to be in prison of my own free will, especially when the police threaten to arrest me without explanation,” he told Frettabladid.
“I’m not trying to say that it was the right decision to leave, I really regret it … I didn’t expect an international arrest warrant to be issued against me, as I was legally free to leave, and believed it was out of the question that I would be labelled a fugitive.
“I would never have done this if I didn’t believe I was a free man.”
Stefansson was among 11 people arrested for allegedly stealing the computers in a series of burglaries in December and January. Icelandic authorities said that as Stefansson was not considered a dangerous inmate, he was transferred to the Sogn prison earlier in April. The facility is not fenced and allows inmates to have access to phones and the internet.
Local media reports say he booked his ticket an hour before the flight left Iceland and while he used a different name, he paid for the ticket using his own debit card.
In the letter to Frettabladid, Stefansson claimed his innocence and said he was being held in Iceland only “on suspicion” and without trial. He said he had been given somewhere to stay, a car, false papers and money and could stay on the run “as long as I like.”
Dutch police say prosecutors are now working on Stefansson’s extradition.
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