Suspect in massive Iceland Bitcoin heist busts out of jail, escapes to Sweden

Photo credit: AP/Damien Loverso, via The Guardian

Icelandic police arrested 11 people in March in connection with the theft of 600 computers, worth roughly $2 million, that were used to mine Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Today the Guardian reported that the alleged mastermind of the heist, Sindri Thor Stefansson, broke out of his frost-encrusted cell and fled the nation aboard the Prime Minister's airplane. 

Of course, this being Iceland, it's not quite as dramatic a bust-out as it might first sound. Stefansson had recently been transferred to a low-security prison that has no fences and provides internet and phone access to inmates, and guards didn't actually notice he was missing until the plane carrying him to freedom had already taken off. And that plane, by the way, was apparently a commercial flight out of Keflavik that just by coincidence happened to be carrying Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir to a conference with Indian PM Narendra Modi, according to The Guardian.

Police believe Stefansson had outside help making his getaway, although it's unclear to what extent: The Guardian report says it's thought that he traveled under a false passport, but officials told the Telegraph that it was unlikely he had to use a passport at all because he was traveling within the Schengen Zone of the EU, which doesn't require passports for border crossings. 

The number of people who have been arrested in connection with the theft is now up to 22, although the stolen computers still have not been recovered. As we noted in our original report, two million bucks is nothing to sneeze at, but the real value is the potential profit that they could churn out via cryptocurrency mining. 

And while the original crime was a big deal in the small, relatively crime-free nation, this prison break, even though it's not exactly Escape From Alcatraz, might be even more sensational: University of Iceland sociology professor Helgi Gunnlaugsson said the tiny size of the "underworlds" make it very difficult for criminals to hide, much less flee the country. 

"Prison breaks in Iceland usually mean someone just fled to get drunk," he said.   

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.