Although the crypto market keeps bringing good news for the investors and crypto enthusiasts, bitcoin didn’t prove to be prospering for a 61-year-old grandmother, Tang Qiuping, living in China. The Chinese central authorities sentenced her to serve in jail for a duration of four months after catching her stealing electricity to mine bitcoin. In addition to the punishment, she was also fined 10,000 yuans i.e., roughly $1,500 for electricity theft.
During Tang’s case that was heard in a federal court in the Hebei province of China, it was revealed that she had been stealing electricity from January 11th to October 2nd, 2018. She was operating four bitcoin mining machines and was successful in making a profit of 6,500 yuan. According to the Tangshan Power Supply Company of Minbei Electric Power Co. Ltd., Tang utilized 17277.6 kWh of electricity illegally that cost about 9,000 yuan.
During the hearing, Tang wasn’t hesitant to admit her illicit doings and she confessed about all aforementioned criminal acts. Furthermore, her relatives agreed to refund the money made by Tang while stealing electricity. It’s surprising to acknowledge that while she was only able to make 6,500 yuan, the electricity used to generate that profit cast much more. Her fine, electric bill and the profit margin, altogether valued at more than 24,000 yuan, were to be paid back by Tang.
Bitcoin, certainly, wasn’t lucky for Tang who ended up giving much more money than she had earned using unethical means. But on the other hand, the harsh treatment of the Chinese court was peculiar as it decided to extract way more than what Tang had gained. Tang was already unlucky with bitcoin and later her confessing straight away couldn’t earn her court’s mercy either.
Previously, there had been several similar incidents of electricity theft in China. A Taiwan bitcoin miner yielded about $14.5 million after stealing electricity of $3 million. He covered his 17 mining centers by using fake storefronts to deceive the authorities. On another occasion, after noticing irregularities in power consumption, the local power grid became suspicious and reported its findings. Upon investigation following the grid’s complaint, police exposed one of the biggest electricity theft case and seized about 600 bitcoin mining computers.
Bitcoin miners were so determined back then that even China’s crackdown against them couldn’t prevent them from making piles with bitcoin mining. When the conditions in the country became adverse, a majority of bitcoin miners rushed to Iran. Aiming to increase margins with bitcoin mining in Iran, miners had hoped to cash the extremely low electricity unit cost i.e., as low as $0.006 per kilowatt-hour. However, due to Iran’s generous electricity subsidy, bitcoin mining rigs were banned so miners couldn’t fulfill their goals in the country. Most of the rigs weren’t capable of passing border checks, so for miners the plan couldn’t go as planned. As much as 40,000 bitcoin mining rigs not making through borders were confiscated by authorities.
China hasn’t been able to maintain a balance between cryptocurrencies and crypto enthusiasts yet. This is quite evident from Tang’s case: while she was driven by a bullish attitude towards bitcoin even at her age and was very cooperative during case investigation, she was fined more than she had successfully pocketed by the Chinese authorities. Despite too many crypto miners being in China, the reality is much different from what appears to be.
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As per China’s latest updated rankings, EOS remains the top cryptocurrency in the country. Meanwhile, despite improving three spots, bitcoin is not even among the top 10 cryptocurrencies. At present, the world’s first cryptocurrency, bitcoin, stands at 12th number in rankings shared by CCID Research Institute. The others in the top five are Tron, ether, steem and ontology. While EOS managed to maintain its position for nearly a year, Tron made its way to the second spot in February 2018.
At the moment, possessing bitcoin in China is not considered equivalent to a crime. Council Member at the Bank of China’s Law Research Association, Sa Xiao elaborated that owning virtual properties such as bitcoin is well protected by the current legal framework of the country because it is one of the rights of the citizens. He said that while bitcoin has not made a strong ground in China, the current bull market may impact bitcoin’s current position; however, the decentralized cryptocurrency has a long way to go to top the list.