Allegations of electricity theft have led to the arrest of bitcoin miners in two Chinese cities, according to reports.

In the first instance, six individuals have been arrested in Tianjin, with the Xinhua news agency saying the suspects allegedly used 600 cryptocurrency miners to generate bitcoin with power taken from the local power grid. The police claimed they avoided paying the resulting bills by bypassing the electricity meter.

An investigation was launched, Xinhua says, after the local power company noticed spiking electricity consumption while detecting a significant difference from the measured current. That ultimately led to the seizure of the 600 bitcoin miners along with eight high-powered fans.

The case, coming at a time when China still plays a dominant role in bitcoin mining despite hints it might move to dampen the industry, marks the largest power theft in the country in recent years, the report states.

Meanwhile, according to another report today from the official news site of China’s supreme prosecutor, two suspects have also been arrested by police in the city of Wuhan – also charged with electricity theft.

The individuals had allegedly been using an empty and discarded warehouse since March 2017 to house bitcoin miners, while avoiding utility bills via a similar method to the Tianjin accused.

Electricity wire image via Shutterstock